MineralsWhen I start researching a topic, I can really get obsessed. And such is the case with mineral supplement options for sheep. I might have just bought my bag of “sheep mineral” from the local feed store for years and not given it a second thought, had it not been for Pat Coleby’s book Natural Sheep Care. The book is a mind-boggling read, going into great depth on dozens of trace minerals, and the role each one plays in nutrition, and when deficient, in disease. When I first read this book, my reaction was “bleah!!” and I stuck it back on the shelf, because the stuff just seemed too complicated. And you would think surely the makers of my feed store mineral bag already had all this figured out, right? 😉

But what’s been nagging me from her book is her assertion that all health problems stem from mineral imbalances or deficiencies. She says “behind every vitamin shortfall, there is a lack of minerals.” She insists that parasite problems and hoof scald/rot are direct results of mineral deficiencies. This notion intrigues me, because the sheep industry is fairly complacent about parasites and foot problems. Most people, especially in our wet climate, just shrug and assume that worms and lameness are part of the deal, that you just have to fight them all the time. But, those problems are expensive, in labor, medication, stress and productivity of the sheep; so if we could minimize or make them go away via nutrition, wouldn’t that be amazing?

I started looking at the info on the back of my sheep mineral bag- the one made by American Stockman. And then I checked out the label of the goat  mineral sold at my local store, which in theory might only differ from the sheep stuff by having the addition of copper. Ah, but not so! And then Cadie, over at the EweWin blog, shared the ingredient list of her favorite mineral, Hickory Hills Ewe Plus (thanks Cadie!). I also looked up the labels for Sweetlix brand, because I know it has a very good reputation.

Wow, are they all really different! Some of this difference may be accounted for in different recommended feeding doses, but this is less important since most people feed mineral supplements free-choice. So clearly there is no agreed-upon industry standard of what’s best for sheep in a mineral supplement. And knowing that the right balance of trace minerals is just as important as the correct minimum availability of each, it makes one wonder, is the mix in my bag right for my sheep, and my forage and soil?

Some other considerations I’ve read about when comparing mineral mixes: 1) mineral oil as an ingredient may reduce or prevent good absorption of the ingredients 2) mixes that are mostly salt are costing you more money, because you’re mostly paying for table salt and the sheep have to eat more to get the minerals they need 3) sulfate forms of trace minerals usually have better bioavailability than oxide or chloride forms, which the exception of magnesium oxide.

I’m mostly leaning towards offering the minerals all separately, but if I do choose a mix, I’m definitely moving away from the brand I’d been buying, it looks very weak in comparison to the other options.


  American Stockman Mineral for all classes of Livestock Purina Goat Chow Mineral Hickory Hills Ewe Plus (Agway) [info thanks to Cadie] Sweetlix Sheep & Goat Sweetlix Super Sheep
Salt 96-98.5% 41-45% 73.62- 86.43% 18-20% 12-14.4%
Zinc 3,500 ppm 7,500 ppm 9616.36 ppm 7,000 ppm 7,000 ppm
Iron 2,000 ppm 491.44 ppm 7,000 ppm 7,000 ppm
Manganese 1,800 ppm 5602.90 ppm 7,000 ppm 7,000 ppm
Iodine 100 ppm 200.13 ppm 250 ppm 250 ppm
Cobalt 60 ppm 57.76 ppm 130 ppm 130 ppm
Selenium 30 ppm 25-30 ppm 90.06 ppm 25 ppm 25 ppm
Calcium 9-11% 0.01-0.02% 20-22% 12-14.4%
Phosphorus 8% 0.08% 6% 8%
Magnesium 1% 0.03% 1% 5%
Potassium 0.10 % 0.10% 1% 1.6%
Copper None added 1,750-1,800 ppm None added None added
Vitamin A 140,000 IU/lb 53.94 IU/lb 300,000 IU/lB
Vitamin D-3 11,000 IU/lb 0.00 IU/lb 50,000 IU/lb 100,000 IU/lb
Vitamin E 750 IU/lb 1596.69 IU/lb 200 IU/lb 100 IU/lb
Chlorine 48.59%
Sodium 25.21- 37.82%
Sulfur 0.93% 1% 2%
Niacin 2.22 mg/lb
Choline 70.72 mg/lb
Molybdenum 50 ppm
Feed rate .27 oz/day .25 – .33 oz/day unknown .5 – 1 oz/day 1 oz/day
Ingredient List

Salt, zinc oxide, ferrous carbonate, manganous oxide, calcium iodate, sodium selenite, cobalt carbonate, yellow iron oxide.

Salt, dicalcium phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, cane molasses, mineral oil, magnesium oxide, iron oxide, copper sulfate, zinc oxide, vitamin E supplement, vitaminA supllement, ferrous sulfate, ethylenediamine dihydriodide, fenugreek flavoring, calcium iodate, potassium iodide, cobalt carbonate, manganous oxide, vitamin D-3 supplement, ferrous carbonate, sodium molybdate, manganese sulfage, zinc sulfate, sodium selenite.

Salt, Processed Grain by-products, Zinc Sulfate, Manganese, Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Vitamin E Supplement, Mineral Oil, Ferrous Sulfate, Ethylenediamine Dihydriodide, Cobalt Sulfate

Calcium Carbonate, Dicalcium Phosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate, Salt,Deflourinated Phosphate, Magnesium Sulfate, Potassium Sulfate, Potassium Chloride, Magnesium Oxide, Yeast Culture, Zinc Oxide, Zinc Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Manganese Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Cobalt Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Sodium Molybdate, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Cane Molasses, Synthetic Red Iron Oxide and Mineral Oil.

Dicalcium Phosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate, Defluorinated Phosphate,Calcium Carbonate, Salt, Yeast Culture, Magnesium Oxide, Magnesium Mica, Magnesium Sulfate, Potassium Sulfate, Processed Grain By-Products, Molasses Products, Cobalt Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Ferrous Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Sodium Selenite, Sodium Molybdate, Zinc Oxide, Zinc Sulfate, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Synthetic Red Iron Oxide, Mineral Oil.