Mineral Technology

Clinoptilolite Zeolite for Animal Health and Disease Reduction

Many peer reviewed publications describe natural zeolite feed additive benefits upon healthy, at-risk, and disease challenged animals, the body of research indicated several possibilities: Macro and micro nutrition, ionic buffering, surface absorption. Research indicates that as natural zeolites pass through the animal and spend time in the digestive tract, they do not pass through the intestinal wall. The natural zeolite structure framework is stable and is not altered by the digestive monogastrics and rumens.

Natural Clinoptilolite Zeolite can play 4 important roles in overall heard health of production animals, they include: rumen buffering, sodium bicarbonate partial or complete substitution, relief from diarrhea, afloatoxin mycotoxin binder.

Since Zeolite is one of the only naturally occurring negatively charged minerals in existence, numerous benefits in the feed process can result from its basic chemistry. Zeolite is inert, stable, and non-toxic.

Zeolite and Ammonium play an important role in nitrogen and protein supply in the Rumen. When Zeolite is fed to animal, it absorbs much of the ammonia generated from the Non Protein Nitrogen (NPN). It acts as a reservoir and a slow release mechanism for the Nitrogen. This allows you to feed more NPN.

Zeolite-Dairy-applications-cowsThe introduction of Zeolite into animal feed improves animal growth and weight gain by increased feed conversion. Zeolite also effectively absorbs many mycotoxins and aflatoxins, in turn having a proactive effect against the development of aflatoxicosis in farm animals.

The strong affinity for ammonium also provides superior odor control and healthier local environment. It lowers the risk of toxicity from the increase of Ph levels in the Rumen and increase of ammonium levels in the blood serum. Zeolite acts as a Rumen buffer for the total digestive tract. High CEC levels of 1.9 to 2.5 equates to more buffering.


  • Increased overall herd health
  • Acts as a binding agent for mycotoxins and aflatoxins
  • Acts as a buffering agent
  • 30%-40% reduction in ammonia released from the cow
  • Added fertilizer value to your waste products
  • 100% natural and Certified Organic by the Idaho Department of Agriculture
  • Better value and a direct replacement for sodium bicarbonate as a rumen buffer
  • Increased feed conversion
  • Balances Ph levels

Additional Benefits:

Once Zeolite leaves the cow, it will be fully loaded with Nitrogen and ready for use in fields or compost. This bound Nitrogen is unique in the sense it will only be released through CEC in the form of plant mineralization.
Extended use will also promote lower water necessity to obtain the same crop yield because Zeolite can hold up to 60% of its mass in water. Zeolite will also recapture any commercial fertilizer applied to the field retaining it in the root zone for further use.

Sodium Bicarbonate Replacement

The use of Zeolite as a replacement for sodium bicarbonate as a Rumen buffer has been known for years. The advantages of using 40- mesh Zeolite over Sodium Bicarbonate include:

  • Better economics
  • Increased odor control
  • Increased feed efficiency
  • Reduced scours
  • Increased mycotoxin binding


  • Both are naturally formed and mined from the earth
  • Both act as a ruminary buffer for cattle
  • Both are available for less than $300 per ton


  • Zeolite acts as a ammonia reservoir that will hold and release ammonium as needed
  • Zeolite has positive effects downstream in the nutrient management plan
  • Zeolite has a high CEC value
  • FDA approved as an anti-caking agent
  • Added Protection from mycotoxins
  • Zeolites reduce odor

Utah State University:
Effects of supplementation of natural Zeolite on intake, digestion, ruminal fermentation, and lactational performance of dairy cows.
Tests showed that Zeolite’s ability to act as a reservoir can result in protection of the animal against ammonia overload in the rumen. The reason being that after the release of ammonia consequent to each meal, Zeolite absorbs the high levels of NH₃ concentration, then releases as needed when the concentration is reduced (Mumpton, 1977).

Supplementing Zeolite has no negative effects on productive performance and ruminal fermentation, which indicates that Zeolite can effectively replace Sodium Bicarbonate (NaHCO₃) and increase milk protein while reducing overall costs associated.

Utah State University:
Use of rumen modifiers to manipulate ruminal fermentation and improve nutrients utilization and lactation performance in dairy cows.
Feeding Zeolite would cost effectively replace sodium bicarbonate as a ruminal buffer, whereas CTE may change the route of N excretion, having less excretion into urine, but more into feces. The high affinity of Zeolites for water and osmotically active cations may facilitate ruminal fermentation, and osmotic activity may regulate pH in the rumen by buffering against hydrogen ions of organic acids. In addition, supplementing Zeolite in dairy diets may improve N utilization because Zeolite gradually releases excess ammonia in the rumen and allows rumen microorganisms to capture ammonia into microbial protein for assimilation.

Nutrient Management Plan

Zeolite-management-planZeolite will play an important role in the nutrient management plan of the future. We at IDA-ORE have worked closely with the Idaho Department of Agriculture and the EPA to have many Zeolite practices approved for better management practice points. We are currently working with the University of Idaho, Idaho Department of Dairy and Agriculture, CAFO, NRCS, Idaho Animal Health Laboratories, and the Idaho Association of Soil Conservation to proceed through the necessary studies needed for Zeolite to become recognized for all of its environmental benefits.

Much of the Nitrogen entering a farm as animal feed ends up as ammonium in manure, which is either volatilized as noxious ammonia or leached as nitrate. Zeolite captures this nitrogen. Environmentally, this improves the fertilizer efficiency of manure compost, as well as reduces nitrate leaching by inhibiting the nitrification of ammonium. Economically, Zeolite is conservatively capable of holding 4.3% by volume of Nitrogen, and 5.7% by volume of potassium and will exit the cow as fully bound and ready to be released though plant mineralization onto pastures and crops while adding value.
It should also be noted that nitrogen cannot be sequestered like carbon can, so reducing the emissions of nitrous oxide can play a large role in Agricultural Soil Management. Nitrous Oxide released from agricultural soils currently contributes almost 70 percent of the total nitrous oxide emissions in the US. Reducing Nitrogen losses from agricultural soils and manure has the potential to significantly reduce agricultural GHG emissions.

Although it remains a challenge to accurately measure the amount of nitrous oxide being emitted from farm fields due to many variables. We do know that nitrous oxide is roughly 300X more powerful than carbon dioxide in terms of GHG emissions and qualify for carbon credits. We also know Zeolite will bind and hold nitrogen in the manure, which in turn reduces the amount of nitrous oxide being released. As stated earlier, “Zeolite will play an important role in the nutrient management plan of the future.” Additional testing is needed to quantify this benefit for GHG credits.

Composting with Zeolite

Zeolite has two methods of holding cations such as ammonium and plant nutrients:

  • Absorption into the porous matrix
  • Adsorption by cation exchange (CEC)

Zeolite holds ammonium and other nutrients in the crystal structure where they are not water soluble but are plant accessible on an as-needed and time-release basis. As discussed, Zeolite has a high affinity for the ammonium ion, is a plant usable form of nitrogen.

Zeolite adds value to manure and compost:

  • The introduction of Zeolite with the manure, compost, or lagoon water has many added benefits:
  • Increased water retention
  • The holding of nitrogen and
  • micro-nutrients in the root zone
  • Provides a medium for future capture of nitrogen
  • Increased ion exchange capacity in the soil
  • Enhanced infiltration and aeration of the soil

Water Retention:

  • Zeolite has numerous advantages in the area of water conservation and nutrient leaching prevention.
  • Zeolite is capable of holding up to 50% of its weight in water.
  • Tests have shown Zeolite can increase water infiltration by 7%-30% on gentle sloped land and up to 50% on steep sloped land.
  • Soil moisture can be increased by 0.4%-1.8% in drought conditions and 5%-15% in general water situations
  • Consequently, overland surface runoff is reduced, in turn protecting lands from erosion.
  • Use of soluble N fertilizers is a major cause for groundwater contamination. Zeolite reduces nitrate leaching by inhibiting the nitrification of ammonium to nitrate.

The bound nitrogen has the capability to triple the amount of nutrients actually being used by the plant instead of lost to volatilization and leaching. This affinity to nutrients can add significant amounts of nitrogen and potassium to soils.


Prevention of Aflatoxicosis in Farm Animals by Means of Hydrated Sodium Calcium Aluminosilicate (Zeolite) to Feedstuffs: a Review Ramos, A.J and Hernandez E. (1997), Spain.

Mycotoxins are a wide group of fungal toxins that have been associated with severe toxic effects (mycotoxicosis ) in humans and animals. Aflatoxins are the most dangerous of these secondary metabolites. There is no definitive way to achieve complete detoxification of food and feed contaminated with mycotoxins. Natural zeolites have a high a high affinity to absorb aflatoxins, thereby having a protective effect against the development of aflatoxicosis in farm animals. Paper postulates a mechanism for the protective effect against aflatoxicosis generated by a sorbent compound obtained from a natural Zeolite.

Minerals for Animal Feed in a stable market. Loughbrough R. (1993) Assistant Editor
Zeolites can be used as binding agents in animal feeds. Zeolite’s primary values are as growth promoters and carriers of nutrients. As growth promoters, Zeolites act as a buffer in the animal’s digestive system, storing nitrogen in the form of ammonium and releasing it gradually by ion exchange with sodium and potassium. The animal receives greater benefit from the same quantity of feed. The ammonium absorbing characteristics result in drier feces and an improved atmosphere.

Veterinary Medicine, University of Missouri.
Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites produced by certain fungi in a number of agricultural products. Mycotoxin contamination may affect as much as 25% of the world’s food crops. The prevention of mycotoxicosis in livestock can be achieved by the inclusion of mineral adsorbents to bind mycotoxins, thereby decreasing their bioavailability. Zeolites effectively absorb mycotoxins containing polar groups, such as aflatoxins.

Cattle Studies

Sweeney T.F. – University of Kentucky – Influence of Zeolite on Growth and Metabolism in the Ruminant:
Determined Clinoptilolite could be used to conserve free ammonia for rumen microbial fermentation and thereby improve nutrient utilization by ruminant animals. Zeolite use demonstrated improved nitrogen, organic matter, and acid-detergent fiber digestibility when 5% Clinoptilolite was added to a high-solubility protein diet of growing steers and heifers.

Bergero D. – Universita di Torino, Italy – Effect of feeding Clinoptilolite Zeolite to cows:
Beneficial effects on the ammonium levels in rumen fluid and blood serum levels. Quote Mumpton and Fisherman (1977): 1% Zeolite added to rations resulted in a Ph decrease in the rumen, due to a lower ammonium content and to an increase in volatile fatty acid production. Quote Garcia-Lopez et al. (1988): 2% by weight Zeolite added to dairy cow feed concentrate increased the milk fat percentage and the acid/base balance.

Graduate Thesis – Utah State University – Use of Rumen Modifiers to Manipulate Ruminal Fermentation and Improve Nutrient Utilization and Lactational Performance of Dairy Cows:
Research has continued to identify better valued mineral buffers that exhibit the same mode of action as established buffers. The natural Zeolite Clinoptilolite has a high attraction for water and large number of cations, such as K+, NH₄+, Ca²+, and Mg²+, which can be reversibly bound or released, depending upon the surrounding conditions (Mumpton, 1999) The high affinity of Zeolites for water and osmotically active cations may facilitate ruminal fermentation, and osmotic activity may regulate pH in the rumen by buffering against hydrogen ions of organic acids. In addition, supplementing Zeolite in dairy diets may improve N utilization, because Zeolite gradually releases excess ammonia in the rumen and allows rumen microorganisms to capture the ammonia into microbial protein for assimilation into the animal’s digestive systems.

Free Choice Zeolite, for use as a Rumen Buffer:
A small dairy farm near Preston Idaho milks 40 Holstein cows that average three to four years in age. They are fed primarily barley and corn with some beet pulp for roughage. The hay is kept dry, and they do not use a chopping wagon. The cows average approximately 75 pounds of milk per day per head. A yearly average per cow would be approximately 14,000 lbs of milk. The cows were allowed free choice sodium chloride, dicalcium phosphate, and sodium bicarbonate each placed in half of a 55-gallon plastic drum. The salt consumption was approximately 50 pounds in two weeks, the dicalcium phosphate was approximately 50 pounds in two weeks, and the sodium bicarbonate was approximately 50 pounds per week. Two years ago, minus 40 mesh Zeolite was introduced in half of a 55-gallon drum. The cows began eating the Zeolite rather than the sodium bicarbonate, and after six months the sodium bicarbonate became hard and was removed completely. For one and a half years the cows have eaten the Zeolite with no sodium bicarbonate. Should the drum run out, up to 10 cows will stand around the empty drum. When filled they each take a large mouth full and walk away.

Calf Studies

“The use of Zeolite in animal feeds decreases calf mortality rates by reducing scores, enhancing growth rate and providing “buffer-like” ability in the rumen. Added benefits include reduced odor, better economics, enhanced odor control in the urine lagoons, and reduction in application of expensive antibiotics”
Kondo et al. (1996)
Reported that Clinoptilotite added to the feed of young calves improved growth rate and decreased the incidence of diarrhea.

Verzgula L. – Humboldt University, Germany – Animal Production and Veterinary Medicine
Health problems such as alimentary diarrhea can cause the death of calves up to the second week in life. Treatment with antibiotics is not always effective. Clinoptilolite Zeolite was added at a rate of 1.0 gram per kg of body weight at every feed). The Zeolite decreased the occurrence of both diarrhea of alimentary origin and an associated respiratory syndrome in comparison to the control. This treatment offers a possibility to decrease the use of expensive antibiotics. The Zeolite improved the absorption of immunoglobulin, total proteins, and some micro-elements, especially iron and copper. Mechanisms for the positive protective effect of Zeolite on the incidence and course of diarrhea in the alimentary canal: increase in adherence of enteropathogenic E-coli; alteration of metabolic acidosis through effects on osmotic pressure in the lumen of intestines.

Dairy Emissions, Odor, and Carbon Credits

Although the chemical properties of Zeolite are well known, the potential of Zeolites to reduce greenhouse gases are currently being examined.

This section discusses efforts to evaluate the carbon offset potential of Zeolite. The purpose of this section is to assess the options for Zeolite to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in light of current and emerging climate change policies and markets. The focus primarily on dairies and their agricultural application, although Zeolite may also have GHG benefits from other applications such as industrial processes.

Reducing Carbon Emissions
In addition to carbon sequestration, opportunities exist for agriculture to reduce both emissions and odor given off.

Livestock operations that capture methane could generate significant credits to sell on the climate market. Methane is 21-23 times more potent in terms of greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide. When livestock producers either flare or convert their manure into bio-gas, use it for electricity generation, or use it as a form of low carbon energy, they are converting methane (CH₄) into carbon dioxide (CO₂). While still a GHG emission, it is much less potent than methane so therefore can be treated as a reduction.
According to the EPA, agricultural soil management is the largest source of nitrous oxide (N₂O) in the US at almost 70% in 2011. The breakdown of nitrogen in livestock manure and urine also contribute to 5% of the total N₂O emissions nationwide. Carbon credit potential is even higher with N₂O at 300 times more potent than CO₂. An equivalent to over 350,000,000 metric tons of CO₂ were released as N₂O in 2011 alone. Nitrogen cannot be sequestered like carbon can, so reducing the emissions of nitrous oxide can be more valuable in terms of carbon credits, and is where Ida Ore Zeolite can play an important role.

Nitrogen Run-off:
The use of Zeolite can reduce the use and runoff of nitrogen based fertilizer which in turn can qualify as a GHG emission reduction or sequestration provider.

To achieve these advantages, Zeolite can be used in animal operations either as a feed additive, or applied to compost or animal bedding. It can also be mixed with manure compost or applied as a soil amendment for fertilizer. Manure generated from feeding animals Ida Ore’s MinTech Zeolite can be used as a slow release form of nitrogen fertilizer since the Zeolite remains in the manure and binds with the nitrogen.

For agricultural purposes, studies indicate that one gram of Clinoptilolite Zeolite can take in about 4.2 mg of Ammonium-N.

“Corresponding water analysis showed a significant drop in the levels of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and other nutrients present in lagoon water.”

Ottawa County Feeders, Inc. Minneapolis, KS
Testing on the cattle feedlot showed substantial increase in the nutrients present in livestock manure after using Zeolite as a feed additive. The amount of Nitrogen present in the manure more than doubled after using Zeolite. Because more of the Nitrogen and other elements were bound in the manure, corresponding water analysis showed a significant drop in the levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and other elements present in lagoon water.

Anaerobic Digesters

Zeolite can be used to enhance the methane production of anaerobic digesters. Anaerobic digestion is a process by which biomass is decomposed with bacteria in the absence of oxygen, or “anaerobic”, producing methane and other by-products. The concept of generating methane gas via digesters has considerable merit because it appears to offset at least a partial solution for environmental concerns and energy shortages.

Livestock manure contains a portion of volatile, organic solids such as fats, carbohydrates, proteins, and other nutrients that are available as food and energy for the growth and reproduction of anaerobic bacteria, the essential organisms in digester methane production. A variety of materials can become toxic to anaerobic bacteria, including: salts, heavy metals, ammonia, and antibiotics. These materials will inhibit the bacteria when producing methane.

The use of Zeolite in the nutrient management plan will decrease many inhibiting factors if used throughout the farm in cattle feed and manure management.

Most livestock manure contains appreciable amounts of nitrogen, which is converted to ammonia in the digester. Most of the ammonia accumulates in the material and will become toxic if not controlled. Ammonia toxicity is a major concern in the anaerobic digestion of livestock manure. Zeolites can help to mitigate the prohibitive effect of heavy metals and ammonia on methane production by binding with the nitrogen and other charged particles in the digester material.

A 2006 cattle of poultry manure demonstrated a reduction of ammonia emission of 68%, 81%, or 96% respectively for Zeolite applied at 2.5%, 5%, and 10% of the manure weight over a period of seven days.

As discussed above, ammonia reduction, both in the treatment and handling of manure before it enters the digester, as well as during anaerobic digestion, is essential to increase methane output. Studies have shown an increase in methane production through the topical application of natural Zeolites in anaerobic digesters using both swine and dairy manure.
A 2006 study found a daily methane production increase of 11.1% – 30.8% and an increase in organic matter removal of 17% – 20% with the daily addition of 1 gram of Zeolite per liter in the influent fed to the digesters. A 2009 study also showed an 11.1% increase in methane yield with a fixed bed digester.

In addition to increasing methane output, Zeolites high quality filter properties have the potential to help improve the purity of methane produced, thus increasing the market value while improving the feasibility of digesters in general. Increased methane production also translates to capturing more emissions in the digester system, helping to increase the potential for a greater number of GHG credits and revenue.
Lastly, fibers exiting the digester are finding value in high end composts and soils. The addition of Zeolite in these fibers will increase their value by increasing the water retention capacity and providing a bound Nitrogen for slow release through plant mineralization once applied.