Copper (Cu) - cattle

Copper (Cu) is a trace element, meaning that it is an essential element needed only in very small amounts in the body. Copper is important for the production of red blood cells, pigment, hair, connective tissue and the metabolic process (activation of enzymes). Copper is stored in the liver. Lactating calves and lambs depend on this supply, as milk is low in copper.

Copper Requirements (CVB, 2016).
Category g/kg dry matter g/animal/day
Young cattle from 4 months 14.5 56
Young cattle from 9 months 16.4 9
Young cattle from 16 months 18.1 132
Dry 8-3 weeks to calving 24.1 277
Dry 3-0 weeks to calving 25.2 277
Lactating (20 kg) 12.2 227
Lactating (40 kg) 11.1 260


Copper deficiency in animals
Copper deficiency leads to anemia and gives a dull, shaggy hair coat, discoloration of the hair around the eyes ("copper goggles"), thickened bullets, diarrhea, and reduced milk production. Young cattle at the end of the grazing period are at relatively high risk of copper deficiency and may therefore lag behind in development.

Despite a good copper supply, deficiency may still occur, due to poor utilization of copper in the feed. Proteins and iron can inhibit copper absorption. In addition, sulphur and molybdenum can form non-degradable complexes with copper in the rumen.

Copper excess in animals
Copper excess quickly causes poisoning in sheep and, at higher amounts, in dairy cattle. The consequences are liver damage, breakdown of red blood cells, anemia, necrosis, jaundice and, in severe cases, death. The CVB (2005) gives a toxicity limit for copper in cattle of 40 mg/kg dry matter (at chronically high levels). The legal maximum is 35 mg/kg full ration (88% dry matter) for cattle and 15 mg/kg for sheep.

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