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Copper deficiency may be cause of poor performing cattle

Animal health - collecting bloodThe North Coast Local Land Services District Veterinarian team are often asked to provide advice on cattle not doing well. District Veterinarian, Dr Cassie Maria states that whilst there are many causes of poor performance, in a number of recent investigations, copper deficiency has been confirmed.

Cassie said, “Copper deficiency is a common finding in cattle in parts of the North Coast and copper is an essential trace mineral for many functions in cattle, including a healthy immune system.

“Clinical signs may appear unspecific and inconsistent between animals, typically producers will note an increase in poor doing animals; scouring or chronic diarrhea; a light coloured, rough coat may be noticeable (occasionally this may be more apparent around the eyes); fertility may also reduce, and less commonly lameness can become apparent.”

It is important to realise that production losses through reduced growth rates may be the first signs seen in the herd prior to the development of more obvious clinical signs as mentioned above.

“Copper deficiency may be due to either a primary deficiency, where soil levels are deficient, or a secondary deficiency due to a reduction in the absorption of copper due to interactions with other minerals.

“Molybdenum and sulphur especially are known to interfere with copper availability,” said Cassie.

It is imperative to recognise the stock classes most at risk. Deficiency is most commonly seen in those classes of stock with the highest requirements, including pregnant and young growing stock. Heavy worm burdens may also contribute to the development of clinical signs. There can be seasonal variation in the availability of copper from pastures, with less copper being available from lush green feed.

Diagnosis is easily achieved through a simple blood test that can be performed by your local vet.

Copper supplementation can be via injection, oral drenches, slow release bullets or loose licks, however, it is important to have a diagnosis of copper deficiency prior to supplementation, due to the toxicity of excess copper.

“This spring be proactive and look out for signs of deficiency and, if you are concerned, contact your vet for a quick blood test - it may just increase the profitability of your herd.” Cassie advised.

For more information regarding this issue please contact your private veterinarian or the North Coast Local Land Services District Veterinarian team.

Media contact:

Dr Cassie Maria, District Veterinarian, Phone 0427 458 592

Photo captions:

Copper deficiency can be diagnosed with a simple blood test.