MineralsI am still working hard on my mineral supplementation strategy for my sheep. I haven’t talked about it for a while, but over the summer and fall, I continued to do research on making my own mineral supplements. Either having them custom-made or making my own in the kitchen. I just haven’t been able to find a commercial brand that has what I need, and doesn’t have what I need to avoid.

I was able to locate all the ingredients I wanted, except that at first, selenium seemed hard. Most things, you can just type them into a search engine and find a vendor, but not selenium.

I found a selenium yeast product made by Diamond V, but it wasn’t immediately obvious where to buy it. I emailed the company about it, and got this answer back: As a selenium product SelenoSource AF 2000 must be used through a feed mill per FDA regulation.  The toxic nature of selenium and the possibility of of over feeding makes this necessary.

FDA regulated, huh? Further searches on the Interweb revealed that, ahem, some people are buying this stuff in big bags, parceling it out into littler bags, and re-selling it  (presumably at a profit). And not just to people who want to feed it to livestock. Apparently there is a trend of people wanting to take it as as supplement, and this is cheaper than buying it in the human supplement aisles- or something! The company has also apparently told people to knock it off, so then people are taking donations in order to share in their big bag. Sheez. So no wonder the company has to be mysterious about where to buy it.

I called our local WSDA office to inquire about selenium regulation, and whether I’d need a $50/year feed mill license in order to buy it. The guys there were so helpful, even if they thought I was a little nutty in considering mixing my own mineral supplements. I got transferred through quite a few different people who had bits of knowledge on the subject, then got to the stage of one guy hollering across the office to another guy with more discussion. Open-mouthed smile A third guy called his contact at the FDA while I was on the phone with the first guy. No, it’s not regulated. First guy called me back later because he had more thoughts and suggestions for me. Nice fellas there at the WSDA! My every interaction with them has always been supportive, it’s nice to talk to people who are really interested in farming and livestock and care about what I’m doing.

They cautioned me heavily against home mixing, worrying that if I didn’t mix thoroughly, and a clump of selenium made it through, and one sheep at a whole clump, kablooey, it could kill them. I’m not certain this is an entirely valid fear, as even with things that are toxic in excess, there is still the law of averaging. Our bodies are made to tolerate fluctuation in nutrient uptake. A one-time excess amount may not be that big of a deal. What concerns me greater is a feed mill, or myself, making an off-by-a-factor-of-ten error in a whole batch. Because then the sheep could be eating the wrong dose for days or weeks. And in that regard, I trust myself better than a feed mill employee, really.

The WSDA guy remembered off the top of his head which feed mills are making sheep supplements- he’s the one who processes the permits and label submissions. He gave me several mill phone numbers, to ask around if there are any products I hadn’t heard about before. In the end, after warning me several times about the risks of making my own supplements, he said, well, if you end up doing it and it works for ya, give us a call, we’d all be interested to learn what you’re doin’ there! Open-mouthed smile

So, in the end, I found a source for this selenium yeast product, if I choose to go this route. Gary Pfalzbot over at the Jolly German can get it, along with all of the other mineral source ingredients I need. Even with paying for shipping, I think I can make what I need for quite a bit less than what I’m paying now for minerals which aren’t working so well for me.

I also called a local feed mill to inquire about having it mixed. The nutritionist there was helpful in offering his opinion of how to achieve want I want. But he had to admit that having small quantities mixed is pretty cost prohibitive (small quantities being less than a ton- and sheep only eat 1/4 ounce of this stuff a day, so a ton is a LOT). So, I was on the verge of doing the final math, and double- and triple-checking it, and diving in to make my own.

Then I went to a minerals class at Focus on Farming. I almost didn’t go, I thought it might be too basic. But this class was good (just too short). I’m finding there are lots of opinions on ruminant nutrition. The feed mill guy I talked to was really pushing zinc on me, and downplaying copper. But this guy at FOF was really playing up the copper deficiencies we have in the area, and felt zinc wasn’t as much of a player. So I’m back where I started on that. And just as we were leaving, someone in the audience piped up to say, the Snohomish County Cattlemen’s Association has a special mineral mix made for our area.

Wait. What? A mineral mix made for Snohomish County soils and forage? More to come!