Most land nowadays is depleted of minerals from conventional farming. Minerals are critical for the health of the plants and, subsequently, the animals and people. Restoration of this land is a must, especially in grass-fed, no grain operations where the cows do not receive a commercial "balanced" complete feed with minerals added. Interestingly, one of the best ways to repair the land is with cows.
Cows are such vital and wonderful creatures. Not only do they provide us with delicious fats and proteins, they also rejuvenate the land while they're doing it (if managed correctly). High density, tall grass grazing of the cows restores organic matter to the soil and feeding them free choice minerals remineralize it.
When given individual free-choice minerals, cows will eat each mineral according to how much is missing from the land. Since the minerals are not 100% bio-available to the cow, the un-utilized portion gets deposited onto the land via the cows in roughly the proportions that the land needs. Pretty neat, ha?
This free choice mineral method also allows the cows to balance and remineralize their own bodies long before the land is rejuvenated. This, in turn, provides humans with more minerals from the milk and meat as well.
I find it endlessly fascinating to observe which minerals the cows are eating and how much. Everyone says that dairy cows need a comparatively high calcium to phosphorous ratio, but my cows ate bags and bags of (expensive) phosphorous before they ever even touched the calcium when I first started. Now that my land is largely remineralized, they eat them in roughly a classic ratio of 1.5:1 or 2:1.
The calves always eat a lot of zinc. They just love the stuff. But the cows eat very little of it. Sulfur, on the other hand, is rapidly devoured by the cows during times of rapid hair growth for summer and winter coats.
Selenium is a controversial mineral. It can only be sold as "top dress", in a specific amount, because it can be toxic in large quantities. When humans "force feed" selenium by mixing it with other things the cows need and love, they can cause cows to consume toxic levels of it. But, after observing my cows extensively, I became completely convinced they would eat the amount they truly needed and not poison themselves when offered individually.
I did my research and decided to take the plunge and offer it free choice (with the same carrier as all the other individual minerals - this is important). What happened? I was nearly mauled when I brought it out. It was actually quite scary. The cows needed it so badly they were ready to do anything to get. In talking with mineral company, they said they have seen this before on farms in this region. It turns out we're in a severely selenium-deficient area of the country. The cows ate tons.
I have been feeding free-choice minerals for three years now. The first two years cost me a fortune, but the health benefit to the cows was very noticeable. It takes a year or two for the minerals deposited by the cows onto the land to become available back to the cows via the plants. Now that my cows have replenished deficiencies in their bodies and they get plenty of minerals from the plants, they consume only low levels of the individual free choice minerals.
I'm pretty convinced that this remineralization is part of what makes my milk and meat taste soooo good. I believe that things that are more nutritious taste better by design.