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  • Feeding For Mastitis Protection—Prevent Mastitis with Copper Supplements

    Feeding For Mastitis Protection—Prevent Mastitis with Copper Supplements

    In the previous Feeding for Mastitis Protection post, we introduced the benefits of supplements and discussed the role of zinc in mastitis protection.

    In this post, read about copper, what happens if there’s a deficiency, and look at daily recommended requirements and feed concentrations.


    Copper is a strong antioxidant that is an important component of CuZnSOD and CP. Adding copper to your cows’ diet decreases the incidence and severity of intramammary infections. The form of copper also matters. Research from the University of Kentucky tested the difference between chemically inorganic (Copper Sulfate) and organic (Copper Proteinate) supplements.

    Copper Sulfate was able to decrease the fever due to  severe E. coli mastitis within 25 hours after infection, while supplementation as Copper Proteinate resulted in a better clinical udder score, greater recovery to normal milk yield, lower bacterial count after 24 hours, and was able to decrease fever by 36 hours after infection (Scaletti & Harmon, 2012). Copper also aids in immune function by influencing antibody development, lymphocyte replication and the killing ability of phagocytic cells that are responsible for destroying pathogens.

    What’s the Right Amount of Copper in the Diet?

    Copper supplements for dairy cowsThe primary cause of copper deficiency is inadequate levels in the available pasture or feed. Secondary deficiency is caused by antagonism by sulfur, iron or molybdenum in the rumen (National Animal Disease Information Service, 2016). The signs of copper deficiency include poor growth rate in calves, coat depigmentation, lameness, prolonged anemia and impaired fertility. Conversely, excess copper accumulates in the liver and destroys red blood cells, eventually causing death.

    The amount of copper needed varies with age, but the 2001 National Research Council nutritional requirements recommend that rations contain between 13-15 parts per million (ppm) for dry and lactating adult cows, with a maximum tolerable level of 100 ppm. The increasing use of copper sulfate in footbaths and foliar application of copper on cropland prompted a study into copper levels in forages and TMR. In 2001, the average copper concentration in legume silages was 9 ppm and 7 pmm in corn silages.

    In a 2015 survey of 50 Wisconsin dairy farms, copper level in legume forages ranged from 5-30 ppm with an average of 9.8 ppm and corn silage ranged from 3-21 ppm and averaged 7.7 ppm (Sawall, 2016). In total mixed rations, copper concentrations varied between 8-28 ppm with an average of 18ppm. While this increase in feed concentration of copper does not excessively exceed guidelines, these results highlight the importance of working with your nutritionist to optimize immune function without over supplementing.

    Ensuring that your cows are obtaining enough copper for mastitis protection requires a fine balance between feed concentrations and supplementation. Careful management and communication  with your nutritionist will help your cows get the most out of this important mineral.

    In the next post, learn about the complementary roles of selenium and Vitamin E in mastitis protection.

    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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