We often discuss the benefits of controlling the immune response of farmed animals. We want them to have a strong immune system to fight against pathogens, but we also require this expensive and energy/nutrient consuming mechanism to remain dormant when not needed. As it happens, the immune system is often triggered not only by pathogens, but also from certain feed ingredients that present to it such structures as those found in pathogens. Such an example is yeast and soybeans, just to name two very common ingredients. 

Lately, zinc and other trace minerals have been evaluated in regards to their role in the immune system response. Results can be deemed preliminary, but certainly interesting. Of course, more research is needed (as always) before we can assign such significant roles to such common nutrients, but one cannot ignore the increasing evidence. 

As it happens, certain forms of zinc, copper and other minerals can enhance the immune system’s status, and others can trigger an inflammation or alleviate such effects. Zinc, copper, manganese and all trace minerals are no longer defined by their concentration alone. They have ceased being simple minerals in classic nutrition terms. Specific forms of these minerals are now implicated in other functions, making them “functional” ingredients — we want to avoid calling them "health" additives.

Of course, it is not only the supra-nutritional (high) doses of such trace minerals that possess such functional roles. Even normal (nutritional) doses of certain forms can exert functional properties. Again, we are very early in our research efforts, but the data keep accumulating. 

In brief, keep an eye open for new developments in trace mineral nutrition, but before you make any change to your premix, it is best starting by understanding why you use the current forms of minerals. Perhaps you already use the right ones!