The importance of trace minerals in animal nutrition is irrefutable. As the name implies, even small amounts of these elements have large and diverse effects on animal organism. The function of enzymes and hormones is essentially linked to trace elements. This key role in metabolism cannot be replaced by other kind of nutrients. Hence, they are often referred to as essential elements.
For cattle, copper, zinc, magnesium and cobalt are among the most important and are usually added to various supplementary feeds.
Trace elements are defined by extremely low concentrations in the body such as less than 50 mg of iron per kg of the tissue. Based on this, dairy animal requirement, the need for trace elements are determined.
The biological function of trace elements is as follows:
- Iron: Iron is an important pigment of the red blood cells. In addition, iron is responsible for oxygen storage and oxygen transport in the body. As an enzyme component iron plays an important role in energy metabolism as well as in the anti-oxidative system.
- Copper: Copper is mainly stored in the liver as an enzyme component that is part of essential metabolic processes. Copper provides stronger bones and joints and is heavily involved in the utilisation of iron. Copper deficiency in dairy cows is often reflected in reduced fertility and poor immunity.
- Zinc: Besides iron, zinc is also an important trace element. It acts as an activator and component of more than 300 enzymes and hormones. Zinc deficiency causes poor growth and loss of appetite.
- Manganese: This trace element is mainly stored in the bone, liver, kidney and pancreas. It works as an enzyme activator.
Deficiencies in manganese are reflected in reduced growth, skeletal deformities, poor fertility and birth defects in new born calves.
- Iodine: Iodine is located in the thyroid glands and is responsible for the formation of thyroid hormones. Iodine deficiency can be detected by an enlarged thyroid gland and poor milk production.
If cattle are regularly given trace minerals in animal nutrition, they will grow faster and show improved performance. Milk production will increase too.