A Surveyof Selected Heavy Metal Concentrations in Wisconsin Dairy Feeds

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Journal of Dairy Science

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Heavy metals such as zinc (Zn), copper (Cu), chromium (Cr), arsenic (As), cadmium (Cd), and lead (Pb) are potential bioaccumulative toxins of the dairy production system. The heavy metal content of dairy feeds, however, remains poorly documented, particularly in the United States. This survey determined the heavy metal content of 203 typical dairy ration components sampled from 54 dairy farms in Wisconsin. Lowest heavy metal concentrations were found in homegrown alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) hay and haylage, and corn (Zea mays L.) grain and silage. Highest metal concentrations were found in purchased feeds, particularly mineral supplements, and to a lesser extent corn- or soybean-based concentrates. Zinc and Cu were found at the highest concentration in complete dairy (total mixed and aggregated component) rations and reflected the deliberate addition of these metals to meet animal nutrient requirements although more than half the farms fed Cu and Zn above US recommended levels. Concentrations of Cr, As, Cd, and Pb were present in much lower concentrations and decreased in the order Cr > As > Pb > Cd. No complete Wisconsin dairy ration contained heavy metal concentrations above US maximum acceptable concentrations and would be unlikely to induce any toxic effects in dairy cattle. Concentrations of Cd in complete dairy rations were closest to US maximum acceptable concentrations, suggesting the greatest potential long-term risk to exceed US maximum acceptable concentrations if whole farm levels of Cd were to increase in the future. With the exception of Pb, the main sources of Zn, Cu, Cr, As, and Cd in the complete dairy feed ration originated from imported feed. The continued importation of heavy metals in dairy feed is likely to be associated with accumulation of these metals in soils where manure is applied. Although the cycling of many heavy metals through the dairy food chain will be limited by factors such as a soil's cation exchange capacity, pH, salinity, and phytotoxicity of the metal, these may be less limiting for Cd. It is important that sources of Cd in the dairy system are identified and minimized to prevent problems associated with Cd accumulation in the dairy soil system arising over the long-term.

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