6 Major Trace Minerals For Cattle

6 Major Trace Minerals For Cattle

Minerals are essential for all bodily functions and are vital for overall cow performance. Minerals are divided into two categories based on the quantity of the mineral required by the animal. Macro minerals are required in a larger amount as a percent of the diet dry matter, and trace minerals are required in smaller amounts as parts per million (ppm). There are six major trace minerals that are considered when balancing a cow’s diet.


Cobalt (Co)

Functions: Co is a key component required by rumen microbes for the synthesis of vitamin B12. Co is also involved in the conversion of propionate to glucose, and in folic acid metabolism. 

Toxicity: Maximum tolerable level of Co is 10 ppm, and toxic levels are established at 30 ppm. Signs of toxicity include decreased feed intake, weight loss, and anemia.

Deficiency: Liver or serum B12 levels are the best indicators of cobalt status.  Signs of deficiency include anemia, increased incidence of ketosis, reduced feed intake, weight loss, fatty liver, and lethargy.


Copper (Cu)

Functions: Cu is an important player in the immune system. Cu also is need for iron metabolism, red blood cell maturation, reproduction claw health, and blood vessel integrity.

The combination of copper (Cu), sulfur (S), and molybdenum (Mo) synthesizes many important enzymes involved in nucleotide and vitamin metabolism. It is important to ensure that the Cu:Mo ratio is correct and will not cause a negative interaction.

Toxicity: Ruminant diets should not exceed 12-15 ppm of Cu in the total diet. Jersey cattle may be more sensitive to Cu, be aware of any diet changes or stressors that may affect Cu status.

Deficiency: slow growth, feed efficiency, fertility, and increased incidence of retained placenta. Symptoms include rough hair coat with faded colors, heel cracks, foot rot and sole abscesses, cardiac failure, and death.

Other minerals inhibit the absorption of Cu; Zinc (Zn), Iron (Fe), Selenium (Se), and Phosphorus (P). Work with your nutritionist to make sure you have the proper balance.


Iodine (I)

Functions: Required by the thyroid gland for synthesis of hormones that regulate metabolic rate, cell differentiation, growth and development of young animals.

Toxicity: toxicity is not very common, but can be manifested by decreased growth rate, decreased feed intake, decreased milk production, impaired immune response, dry skin, poor hair coat, and decreased fertility.

Deficiency: Cattle do not require a lot of iodine; however, deficiencies do happen. Deficient animals may have symptoms of irregular or suppressed estrus, suppressed immune response, hair loss, weight gain, and possible goiter.

Soybeans, rapeseed, and canola all contain goitrogenic compounds that increase dietary iodine requirements. High nitrate consumption also increases iodine requirements because of reduced absorption.


Manganese (Mn)

Functions: Mn plays a crucial role in reproduction and is essential for normal brain function. Mn is also involved in synthesis of bone, cartilage, and wound healing.

Toxicity: Toxicity is rare because of the low absorption rate of manganese. Dietary levels over 2,000 to 4,000 ppm Mn are considered toxic. Symptoms include reduced intakes, reduced growth rate, anemia, and abdominal discomfort.

Abortion and cystic ovaries may be associated with Mn levels greater than 500 ppm.

Deficiency: weak and silent estrus, cystic ovaries, reduced conception rates, poor growth, inhibited immune response.


Selenium (Se)

Functions: key component of seleno-proteins, an enzyme that converts thyroid hormones from T4 to T3.

Toxicity: Cattle have a small tolerance range; 5 ppm of Se is toxic. Signs of toxicity include Liver cirrhosis, lameness, loss of hair and emaciation.

Deficiency: Ag, As, Cd, Cu, Hg, Pb, Zn, and S decrease the availability of Se.  Dietary Ca over 0.8% may also decrease Se absorption.


Zinc (Zn)

Functions: Zn is a critical component of over 200 enzymes. Zn plays an important role in the immune system and certain reproductive hormones. Zn has also been found to have positive effects on epithelial tissue repair.

Toxicity: >2,000 ppm Zn for several weeks is required to result in toxicosis. Symptoms would include increased incidence of arthritis and milk fever, decreased milk production, decreased feed intake, and lighter calves at birth.

Deficiency: poor hair coat, foot and leg problems, weak claw/horn production, increased hoof problems, lethargy, stiffness, decreased conception rates, impaired sperm maturation, decreased feed intake, degreased growth, impaired immune response.


Written by: Mariah Gull, M.S.


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