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Clinical Trials with Copper Supplementation

Clell V. Bagley DVM, Utah State University


Copper deficiency has been diagnosed in beef cattle herds in many areas of the intermountain west. Copper supplements are not widely used, even though several products are available. It is difficult to correct a deficiency because too much copper can result in copper toxicity or poisoning. Toxicity is less a hazard with cattle than with sheep, but it is still a problem to guard against. Periodic monitoring of the herd’s copper status is essential for proper supplementation. When dealing with a copper deficiency consider whether it will be economically worthwhile to provide supplemental copper. If the animals are only marginally deficient, supplementation will not bring enough additional income to offset expenses. The deficiency may occur for a relatively short period, or on specific pastures or feeds. This type of deficiency corrects itself when the cattle are moved to another site. Yet, in some herds copper deficiency causes significant production losses each year.