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Trace Minerals – More Reasons to Take Testing Seriously

By Greg Dike


I would ask you to take a moment to read the following two articles on the importance of maintaining proper trace minerals found in the May 25thand May 28thissues of BeefVet.


First Article: Mineral supplement can have a big return on investment


Here are some facts to convince your clients about the value of proper mineral supplementation.


Alan Newport | May 25, 2018


If you can help your clients understand mineral problems and correct them, you should unlock significant improvements in performance, reproduction and potential profit, says Dr. Jeffery Hall, head of the toxicology lab for the Utah Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.


Depending on severity of mineral problems and money spent to correct them, the return on investment can be five to one or slightly higher, Hall says.


Dr. Hall says based on thousands of samples from across the U.S. that come through his lab each year, the most common mineral deficiencies in beef cattle are:

  • Copper — 60-70%

  • Selenium — 10-70%

  • Vitamin E — seasonal or drought-related

  • Vitamin A — seasonal or drought-related

  • Zinc – 2 – 10% or drought related

Here are three examples of why the return can be significant.

  1. Correcting mild deficiencies can improve reproduction, decreasing open cows by 2-4%. Correcting severe deficiencies can decrease the number of open cows by 5-15%.

  2. Improvements in neonatal calf health from correcting these common mineral deficiencies can include more saleable calves, less sickness, less labor expense and less medicinal expense. Improvements in the health of young calves can include less summer pneumonia, fewer weaning health issues and improved vaccine efficacy.

  3. Weight gain improvements in a cow-calf operation can be 20-35 pounds per calf when correcting minor deficiencies, and 50 pounds or more when correcting major deficiencies.”

Second Article: Tell clients about mineral timing and balance


Calf development and milk nutrition are just a couple of the issues affecting mineral deficiencies.


Alan Newport | May 28, 2018


In discussions about mineral supplementation, it’s good to remind your clients that the timing for correcting mineral deficiencies is critical.


Since many of these problems manifest in calves and begin in utero, the fast-growth third trimester is a critical time to be certain cows are full-up on supplements, says Dr. Jeffery Hall, toxicology lab manager for the Utah Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.


With copper, selenium and zinc in particular, calves need to be born with ample supplies — actually higher normal ranges than in adult cattle. There are two reasons they need such large stores at birth: First, they can triple their birth weight in the first 60-90 days, thereby diluting their body stores from birth. Second, concentrations of these minerals in milk are very low, while at the same time a young calf is getting a major portion of its nutrition from milk.


The normal process is the cow moves these and other nutrients to the fetus during gestation. If there is a deficiency in the young calf it is because the cow had a deficiency. That can be caused by actual deficiency of these minerals in the diet, or it can result from interference by high levels of such minerals as iron, sulfur, selenium or molybdenum.


Speaking of that, mineral interference is another thing to warn them about, Dr. Hall says.


He tells a story about a beef producer who heard him speak about mineral deficiencies, tested his cattle, and learned they were severely deficient in copper. The operator decided to save money by just feeding copper sulfate and salt.


Dr. Hall says this operation lost 8-9% of his calf crop the first year, mostly from copper deficiency. The next year he lost about 10% of his calves, but this time because of a selenium deficiency caused by the excessive copper he had been feeding. This is why Dr. Hall strongly recommends a “balanced” mineral product with appropriate mineral to mineral ratios.


Did you catch the statement: “the most common mineral deficiencies in beef cattle are”:

  • Copper — 60-70%

  • Selenium — 10-70%

  • Vitamin E — seasonal or drought-related

  • Vitamin A — seasonal or drought-related

  • Zinc – 2 – 10% or drought related”

60-70% of the U.S. beef cattle herd deficient in copper! Up to 70% deficient in selenium. Vitamin levels drought related?! Are we to somehow think that our yaks are exempt? Given climate change and increasing drought we need to be even more vigilant if vitamin deficiencies can be drought related.


And then there are the trace mineral requirements of calves. Do we know our bred cows have sufficient trace mineral levels prior needed for healthy calf growth?


And then the sobering example about incorrect trace mineral supplement programs which can end up causing more damage than doing nothing at all.


The test costs $25 per yak (6 for $30). You can find the trace mineral test protocol on the US YAKS website and the appropriate blood collection tubes are free at this point in time.


Questions or need collection tubes? Contact Greg Dike.

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