Choosing the Right Feed Supplement

Feed supplements are added to the nutrition of animals in order to supply nutrients that are lacking in their primary diet. These supplements cannot be used to replace the primary diet but only to complement it. Adding supplements to the primary diet allows the animal to receive the correct amount of nutrients. This is important because proper nutrition gives your animals the strength to grow, develop and reproduce. It also enhances the animal’s immune system which can be weakened by external conditions. In this guide, we’ll discuss the various key points to consider when choosing a feed supplement for the animals on your farm.

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  • How to choose the right feed supplement

    Choosing the right feed supplement depends largely on the type of animals you manage on your farm. Livestock requires specific nutrients which include minerals, vitamins and trace elements that come in either liquid or dry form. Here are the main points we’ll cover in this guide:


    • Feed supplements as a primary diet substitute?
    • Why add supplements?
    • Minerals
    • Vitamins and trace minerals
    • Form: drops, tablets or powder
  • Can you substitute primary diets with feed supplements?

    Feed additive - VITABIOCELL - VITALAC

    VITABIOCELL – VITALAC feed additive 

    You cannot substitute primary diets with feed supplements. You should never treat them as the sole source of food for animals as it would harm their health. The correct way to incorporate feed supplements into the diet of your livestock is to mix the supplements into the daily feed, as recommended by a veterinarian. Food supplements are effective in preventing nutritional deficiencies and should be treated as additives to keep livestock healthy because they improve the level of nutrients. This is why it is often recommended to add certain supplements to the total diet of animals.


    The difference between supplements and additives is quite simple. The feed may come in the form of concentrates (grains) or roughages (hay, silage, fodder), including pasture. A feed additive is a single substance added to feed in micro quantities to fulfill a specific function, such as to aid digestion, for weight gain, to stimulate appetite, etc. A feed supplement is a combination of nutrients added to livestock feed to improve the nutrient balance or performance of the total ration.

  • Why add supplements to feed?

    Animal and human health are linked as food ingested by livestock impacts the quality of meat and byproducts produced. Livestock requires a certain balance of water, minerals, vitamins and proteins to maintain basic health requirements and fuel growth. Supplements enhance nutritional intake and increase the well-being of livestock, as mentioned earlier. They can help with the following:


    • Digestion problems
    • Deficiencies
    • The immune system
    • Optimizing growth rate
    • Breeding
    • Appetite stimulation
  • Which minerals do my animals need and why?

    Feed supplements are often categorized by animal types such as cattle, poultry, pig, sheep, horses or goats. You can also find specific feed supplements categorized by main ingredients, the most popular of which are mineral, vitamin, protein, lipid and amino acid. Some of the most important nutrients to consider when looking for feed supplements are minerals, vitamins and trace elements. Here are some details of various elements:

    Phosphorus serves the skeleton, energy metabolism, growth and milk production. An imbalance of phosphorus can cause a decrease in growth and production, lameness and a decline in fertility, especially in the event of excess and imbalance with calcium.


    Calcium contributes to the skeleton, muscle function and blood. A deficiency in calcium can cause milk fever, lameness and fractures. Calcium helps reduce the absorption of trace elements in case of excess. 


    Magnesium is used for energy and muscle metabolism. It remarkably improves the digestibility of feed. Livestock becomes irritable when deficient in magnesium and can show aggression and signs of muscular tremors (often with the ears drawn back). Less severe signs are often associated with milk fever and calving/lambing problems from weak uterine muscles.


    Sodium contributes to nerve impulses, muscles and blood. It functions as a major extracellular cation and is essential for maintaining osmotic pressure in the body as well as water regulation. It is essential for transporting nutrients around the body and removing waste from cells.

  • What should I know about vitamins when choosing feed supplements?


    Vitamins are organic substances indispensable to the normal metabolic processes of animal organisms and are generally added to feed in the form of a premix. Vitamins are essential for the proper execution of different metabolic processes, including the growth of tissues and bones, the maintenance of health, animal performance and fertility. In addition, vitamins can increase the lifespan of animals, their productivity and the quality of meat. They can also help reduce stress levels, improve gut health and boost the immune system, reducing the need to use antibiotics.


    In many cases, the animal’s body cannot synthesize certain vitamins or its usual diet does not provide it with the necessary levels of a specific vitamin, making it necessary to add a feed supplement or additive. Recommended vitamin levels are defined by various factors including animal species, age, function and expected productivity. By fortifying animal forage with the right vitamin complex, farmers can better control the health and performance of their livestock.


    Check the proper dose for vitamins A, D and E depending on the livestock. Vitamin A is essential for growth, reproduction, and milk production. Vitamin D is required to absorb the calcium and phosphorus present. Vitamin B group is generally not required for livestock as it gets synthesized in their rumen but young calves and monogastric animals need it. Vitamin E is necessary for the prevention of paralysis and also for the hatching of eggs.


    Here is the concentration of vitamins A,D and E in a portion of dry matter:


    • Vitamin A: 4,200 IU/kg for dry matter (DM) 
    • Vitamin D: 1,000 IU/kg for dry matter
    • Vitamin E: 15 IU/kg for dry matter
  • What should I know about trace elements when choosing feed supplements?

    Trace elements (or trace metals) are minerals present in living tissues in small amounts, so animals need a lower amount of trace elements compared to major minerals. Common organically bound trace minerals used in animal nutrition are iron, copper, zinc, manganese, chromium and selenium. Trace minerals provide the essential nutrients animals need for metabolic functions, such as growth and development, immunity and reproduction. Even moderate deficiencies can adversely impact animal performance. Here are some of the functions of the main trace elements:


    • Copper: immunity, reproduction, skin and hoof integrity, iron metabolism, as well as bone development and maintenance. 
    • Iron: oxygen transport, immunity, milk production and muscle development.
    • Zinc: immunity, reproduction, skin and hoof integrity, muscle development, milk production and eggshell quality.
    • Manganese: immunity, reproduction, digestion, metabolism and healthy bone growth.
    • Selenium: immunity and antioxidant activity.
  • What form of feed supplement should I choose?

    Animal feed supplement - Delta® ACIDOLINE® - deltavit

    Delta ACIDOLINE – deltavit animal feed supplement

    Animal feed supplement- Nia-Drench - heemskerk Dairy

    Nia-Drench – heemskerk Dairy animal feed supplement

    Depending on the species concerned and the physiological need to be met, the presentation of the product and its mode of administration will be different. The use of these products must be adapted to the breed and stage of life of your animal.

    Generally, supplements for birds come in liquid or powder form to be mixed with drinking water. For large animals, you will find formulas in powder or tablets, to be mixed with food or drinking water, or to be ingested directly. Food supplements for animals are now an integral part of the panoply of care provided by owners. Offering your animal an appropriate supplement means taking care of its health and living comfort.

  • What is an organic feed supplement?

    Animal feed supplement - Purina Mills

    Purina Mills animal feed supplement 

    It is essential, within the framework of organic standards, to take into account the composition of animal feed (forages, concentrates), supplements and additives and other ingredients intended to improve the nutrition of your livestock. Organic livestock feed must be made from certified organic agricultural products. This includes all agricultural ingredients contained in food supplements or additives. It is therefore essential to fully understand the labels and always check with the certification organization for more information if necessary. Also, always check with your certifier before using uncertified feed on your farm. Here is what is prohibited in organic farming:


    • Medications, including hormones, to promote growth
    • Food supplements or additives that exceed the nutritional needs of the animal
    • By-products of mammalian or poultry slaughter, including blood, meat or bone
    • Antibiotics or ionophores
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