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Farmers Could be Feeding Excessive Minerals

01 February 2013

UK - A DairyCo funded study of 50 farms carried out by Harper Adams University, has found that many dairy farms may be over feeding copper along with several other minerals during the winter, while some farms were underfeeding certain minerals.

The study unearthed that 31 of the 50 farms were feeding above the maximum recommended level of copper of 20 mg/kg Dry Matter, and four of them double that. Over feeding copper can result in copper toxicity and death.

Dr Jenny Gibbons, DairyCo research manager explains: “Too much or too little of just one mineral can potentially cause production and health issues, so it’s important that dairy farmers ensure they’re feeding the right amounts. Some minerals also influence the uptake of others, this needs to be taken into account when selecting the correct supplements.”

According to Professor Liam Sinclair from Harper Adam’s University, determining the mineral status of dairy cows varies from mineral to mineral, but conducting an analysis of the forage and feed is very often a good starting point.

“This is relatively inexpensive and a good indicator of potential problems for various minerals. In the case of copper a blood sample is useful to determine whether an animal is deficient.

A liver biopsy or analysis of copper levels from the liver of cull cows can be more useful to indicate whether the cows are being fed excess amounts.” As minerals can be supplied from a variety of sources it is particularly important that one person has overall responsibility for the mineral nutrition on farm.

For more information on feeding minerals see the Minerals Report on the DairyCo website.

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