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  • Feeding For Mastitis Protection—Prevent Mastitis with Zinc Supplements

    Feeding For Mastitis Protection—Prevent Mastitis with Zinc Supplements

    Can Vitamins and Minerals Help My Bottom Line?

    Mastitis is one of the most costly diseases on your farm, so minimizing its occurrence is key to any farm’s success. A good milk quality control program that includes proper milking procedures and hygiene, dry cow therapy, and quarantining are standard practice on every farm, but there is something extra you could be doing to protect your herd.

    Supplementing vitamins and minerals is an excellent extra step in preventing mastitis in the first place. Supplements optimize immune system function as well as reduce oxidative and metabolic stress, helping an udder’s natural defense mechanisms against mastitis and the pathogens that cause it. They are found in a variety of chemically organic and inorganic forms, including complexes, proteinates and amino acid chelates- a combination of amino acids and minerals.

    Chelated minerals get used more easily by the body because of their chemical structure (a mineral (e.g. Copper, Zinc) combined with amino acids and peptides).  This form shields them from the effects of other dietary elements in the digestive tract until they can be absorbed in the small intestine (Kentucky Equine Research Staff, 2011).

    The Chemistry of Why This Works

    Zinc, Copper, and Selenium are the main supplements targeting mastitis. They enhance the antioxidant capacity of superoxide dismutase (CuZnSOD), glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px) and ceruloplasmin (CP) which are naturally found in the body. These antioxidants outcompete for metabolic resources with damaging superoxide radicals produced as part of the immune response to destroy pathogens.

    A by-product of normal metabolic activity in the body is the formation of water molecules. When insufficient numbers of electrons are involved in water formation, a superoxide radical is formed. Small amounts of radicals are normal and required for the process of phagocytosis to destroy harmful substances ingested by immune cells, but excessive levels of them can damage cell membranes and macromolecules such as carbohydrates and proteins. Due to their antioxidant properties, Zinc, Selenium and Copper are key supplements for the nutritional and physiological prevention of mastitis.

    This three-part series will talk about each of the main supplements and how they help in protecting against mastitis.


    zinc supplements for dairy cowsZinc has many cellular functions that contribute to mastitis protection. It is an essential compound for the integrity and barrier function of the udder skin, as well as cellular repair and plays an integral role in the formation and strength of the keratin teat plug.

    This plug forms naturally 30 mins – 2 hrs after each milking and acts as a physical barrier to prevent pathogens penetrating the teat canal. The zinc in the keratin plug helps turn this barrier into one that can also chemically fight bacteria.

    Zinc is also an antioxidant that also has catalytic, structural and regulatory roles. Zinc is also known to decrease SCC during subclinical infection (Cortinhas, Botaro, Sucupira, Renno, & Santos, 2010).

    These physical and chemical roles of zinc make it a key supplement in boosting the mastitis resistance of your cows. In the next post, we will discuss copper supplementation as well as examine whether copper concentrations in forage and silage are meeting current dietary requirements.

    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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