Understanding Copper Deficiencies

Trace element availability is influenced by season, geographic location, soil type and type of forage.

Generally less trace elements are present in fast growing forages, and trace elements can be tied up more often, when higher levels of soil are taken in, while grazing or from when forages are made.

Signs of copper deficiency can be very varied and confused with other causes. Copper is involved in a wide range of different essential reactions in the body.

Many farmers however will know if their land or forages are deficient in certain trace elements but simple changes in farming management can result in unexpected trace element deficiencies.

copasureDeficiencies in copper can be due to either low levels present in the soil which result in less present in the forage grown (primary deficiency) or high levels of antagonists which bind and tie up the copper (secondary deficiency).

In some situations there is both a primary and secondary deficiency – low copper and high level of antagonists to bind up what little copper is available.

Signs of copper deficiency may depend on the stage of growth of the individual animal:

  • In growing calves, poor growth and diarrhoea may be the first sign.
  • In young kids, fractures of the long bones or anaemia may be seen.
  • Pregnant sheep will be swayback or deformed lambs is common.
  • In older beef animals a change in coat colour (more brown usually) and ‘spectacles’ around the eyes due to both breakage and change in colour of the hair may be seen.
  • In dairy cattle poor fertility may be the main problem.

Copper oxide needles have a long reliable history in terms of supplementing a wide variety of ruminants for copper deficiency.  They have been used in all sizes of ruminants from lambs to bison and are easy to administer as they are available in a range of different amounts.

Elizabeth BerryIn 2015 Dr. Elizabeth Berry, company veterinary director and research and development scientist joined Animax Ltd., a leading animal health product manufacturer.

Elizabeth uses her extensive experience and expertise to deliver technical support to the Animax sales team and customers. She also manages clinical trials involving existing and new products.

Elizabeth who has published research articles in peer reviewed journals and presented work internationally, joined Animax from DairyCo. She qualified at Liverpool University in 1986 and, after graduating, spent five years working in mixed practices and continued to locum in mixed practices while undertaking other roles. She then joined the Milk Marketing Board as it made its transition to Genus. There, she primarily provided technical support on production areas in the dairy sector and ran a mastitis consultancy field service.

In 1998, Elizabeth embarked on a PhD in bovine mastitis at the Institute for Animal Health, Compton then a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) institute. This included registration work for the internal teat sealant, OrbeSeal. After gaining her PhD, she remained at Compton to work in the Contract Research laboratory and run trials for commercial companies. During the same period she worked for VLA Langford.