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  • Feeding For Mastitis Protection—Prevent Mastitis with Selenium & Vitamin E Supplements

    Feeding For Mastitis Protection—Prevent Mastitis with Selenium & Vitamin E Supplements

    In this final post of the Feeding for Mastitis Protection series, our discussion continues by examining the roles of selenium and Vitamin E in maintaining healthy skin and a healthy immune system.

    Selenium & Vitamin E

    Selenium and Vitamin E are usually given together. They have independent but complementary effects on immune function.  Vitamin E neutralizes the potential toxic effect of supplementing large amounts of Selenium. Blood levels of Vitamin E decrease gradually prepartum during the dry period, are the lowest at calving and then gradually increase again after calving. This corresponds to the greatest risk period for developing mastitis, subsequently the dry period is the most critical time for Vitamin E supplementation.

    Vitamin E is an essential component of skin health, physically protecting the udder from the destructive effects of pathogens on the epithelial cells. Supplementation of Vitamin E has been shown to decrease the incidence of mastitis by 37%, likely due to increasing the ability of neutrophil blood cells to destroy pathogens through phagocytosis (Politis, 2012). Selenium also reinforces the immune system—it increases the release of leukocytes (immune cells) and the efficiency of phagocytes by causing a rapid influx of neutrophils.

    Supplementation of Selenium reduces the severity and duration of infection and is an important component of GSH-Px. Supplementation or injection of Selenium- Vitamin E two to three weeks before expected calving date have been shown to reduce the incidence of mastitis postpartum (Petersson-Wolfe, Mullarky, & Jones, 2016).

    The complementary roles of selenium for immune system health and Vitamin E for skin health make these supplements the ideal partnership for mastitis protection. Adding zinc and copper to this mix provides the benefit of antioxidant and physical properties that can increase resistance to mastitis.

    It’s Important to Use Supplements—but Safely

    Even slight deficiencies in these essential vitamins and minerals can compromise your herd’s ability to prevent infection. Supplementation can ensure that these levels are optimum for proper immune function to defend against not just mastitis, but also other diseases as well.

    Of course, just as insufficient levels can be detrimental, over supplementation can cause toxic effects that could potentially be lethal. When considering any dietary changes for your herd it’s important to always seek the advice of a qualified nutritionist and veterinarian.

    Are you having difficulties finding a solution to reduce your milk SCC levels? We offer instant, on-farm milk testing to help you take control of your business and implement effective milk quality control. Contact us, or visit our Dairy Health Check page for more information.


    About the Author

    Anna Schwanke is an undergraduate student at the University of Guelph, Ontario. She is responsible for researching and writing about a wide variety of topics related to dairy cow welfare and management for Dairy Quality Inc. The 10 years she spent living in Australia, as well as her love of travelling, give her a firsthand viewpoint of issues facing the international dairy community. She plans to graduate from the University’s College of Physical & Engineering Science in 2019 and pursue a career in the Life Sciences or Agriculture industry.

    Cortinhas, C. S., Botaro, B. G., Sucupira, M. C., Renno, F. P., & Santos, M. V. (2010). Antioxidant enzymes and somatic cell count in dairy cows fed with organic source of zinc, copper and selenium. Livestock Science, 84-87.

    Kentucky Equine Research Staff. (2011, February 24). Chelated Minerals Enhance Bioavailability. Retrieved September 23, 2016, from Kentucky Equine Research: http://www.equinews.com/article/chelated-minerals-enhance-nutrient-bioavailability

    National Animal Disease Information Service. (2016). Trace Element Deficiency in Cattle. Retrieved September 23, 2016, from National Animal Disease Information Service: http://www.nadis.org.uk/bulletins/trace-element-deficiency-in-cattle.aspx

    Petersson-Wolfe, C. S., Mullarky, I. K., & Jones, G. M. (2016, January 19). Staphylococcus aureus mastitis: Cause, detection, control. Progressive Dairyman, 30(2), pp. 70-76. Retrieved September 23, 2016

    Politis, I. (2012). Reevaluation of vitamin E supplementation of dairy cows: bioavailability, animal health and milk quality. Animal, 1427-1434.

    Sawall, Z. (2016, August 7). Dairy ration copper concentrations: should we be concerned? Progressive Dairyman, 30(13), pp. 68-69. Retrieved September 22, 2016

    Scaletti, R. W., & Harmon, R. J. (2012). Effect of dietary copper source on response to coliform mastitis in dairy cows. Journal of Dairy Science, 654-662.


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