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Sulfur (S) in Powdered Milk Replacers



Dietary considerations 


Sulfur, after calcium and phosphorus, is the most abundant mineral element found in the body. It is derived almost exclusively from proteins, but only 2 of the 20 amino acids normally present in proteins contain sulfur. One of these amino acids, methionine, has to be supplied by the diet. Cysteine, the other sulfur containing amino acid, are synthesized in the body, but the process requires a steady supply of sulfur. Proteins contain between 3 and 6% of sulfur amino acids. 


Methionine and cysteine are both required for protein synthesis by single-stomached mammals. For optimal growth, diets must provide these two amino acids, or methionine alone. The physiological requirements for cysteine can be met by dietary cysteine or by an excess of dietary methionine. From the standpoint of the diet, methionine alone is capable of providing all the necessary body sulfur, with the exception of the two sulfur-containing vitamins, thiamin and biotin.


Sulfur deficiency


Sulfur is also needed to create connective tissues that support the joints, such as cartilage, tendons and ligaments. A deficiency of sulfur could contribute to joint pain or disease. Sulfur is often contained in human medications designed for joint health. 


Milk replacer analysis


In addition to the protein sources for sulfur in all of their various products, PetAg and Fox Valley both include, in some of their products, one or more of the supplemental sources of sulfur mentioned above, including methionine, thiamin and biotin. Check the specific product labeling of ingredients (or the manufacturers website) to view those supplemental sources.


As shown in the chart below, there is a general trend line that indicates higher sulfur concentrations in higher protein concentration products. This would seem apparent, since, as discussed above, the source of sulfur is from protein. A few exceptions to this correlation are the high-fat products, often used to boost fat values in substitute milk formulas. Another outlier in these test values is GME.


The correct range of concentration values for all species are different, and wild species milk composition is very limited as to any specific mineral content or concentration.

Sulfur Concentrations Chart.jpg

Since averages can at times be misleading, a closer look at a few of the products where multiple test values are available between time periods, can reveal how the concentration values may have changed over time. Then if those changes are significant, either increase or decrease, the reader may want to focus on the most recent profile of the product. 


Even though some of the changes reflected below may be significant over time, simply trying to adjust with supplements requires considerable knowledge and has the potential to worsen an adverse situation. Please review the section on mineral supplementation in the minerals overview.

Sulfur changes overtime.jpg

References and further reading (not intended as an exhaustive list)


Are we getting enough sulfur in our diet? Marcel E Nimni, Bo Han & Fabiola Cordoba.  Nutrition & Metabolism, volume 4, Article number: 24 (2007)  

The information included on this website for dietary minerals is extremely narrow in its scope and nature. It is limited to certain charts and graphs displaying content values (% of total) of various powdered milk replacers as tested by an independent chemical lab. Extremely brief overview information is provided as to the primary nutritional and medical benefits of each mineral, as well as a limited discussion of issues that may arise from concentration levels in the body that may be considered deficit or toxic. Entire textbooks on dietary minerals are written for the medical and veterinary professions, in addition to the internet providing ready access to both scholarly and popular literature. Some of those references are included above.


The data values presented above only represent the test values for the presence and concentration of the mineral conducted according to standard chemical testing methods in a controlled laboratory setting. Any point test value is accompanied by a measurement uncertainty range of +/-20%. The concentration values are in no measure an indication of how much of the mineral may be provided to an animal in reconstituted formula or its bioavailability (its degree of digestibility, absorption, or ultimate utilization). Additionally, no testing was performed as to the source of the mineral in the product (such as inorganic salts) or the grade of any added supplements containing the mineral.


What the data can do is inform the reader as to (1) concentration levels in a product as most recently tested (2) changes over time and between lots, and (3) comparisons of relative concentration levels between products. It is merely data that may serve as a starting point when deciding on a milk replacer product(s) and a recipe, or information to consider if certain medical symptoms appear that could be a result of absence or excess of a specific mineral in the formula. The reader is encouraged to consult veterinary or nutritional professionals prior to providing additional supplementation of any mineral.

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