Mineral deficiencies

The most common mineral deficiencies in cattle, sheep and goats in Australia are of copper, selenium, cobalt and phosphorus.

Conditions when mineral deficiencies are likely to occur

Copper deficiency

  • Known deficient areas such as coastal sandy soils, granite soils, peat swamps (made worse by excess molybdenum or lime application).
  • Extended periods on green feed (copper is more available in dry feed).
  • Breeding stock.
  • Growing stock.

Selenium deficiency

  • Known deficient areas such as coastal sandy soils, acidic soils, sedimentary and granite soils, usually in high rainfall regions (made worse by high superphosphate application and clover dominance).
  • Lush feed situations.
  • Young growing stock.

Cobalt deficiency

  • Known deficient areas such as coastal calcareous sands, high rainfall granite soils and krasnozem soils (made worse by lime application and high superphosphate application, especially in lush seasons).
  • Young growing stock.

Phosphorus deficiency

  • History of very limited superphosphate application on soils naturally deficient in phosphorus.
  • Lactating cows.
  • Young growing cattle.

Diagnosing and identifying mineral deficiencies

Clinical signs that would lead producers to suspect a mineral deficiency include the following:

  • Copper deficiency - Rough coat, sandy-colour Hereford or bronze-tinged Angus, poor growth, diarrhoea.
  • Selenium deficiency -Stiff-legged gait, sudden death, poor growth.
  • Cobalt deficiency - Ill-thrift, emaciation.
  • Phosphorus deficiency - Pica (eating bones and other rubbish), poor growth, soft bones and fractures, infertility, post calving red water.

Pasture samples, soil samples and blood samples from affected animals can also be useful, as well as a clinical response-to-treatment trial.

Prevention strategies for mineral deficiencies

  • Mineral supplementation available as injections, capsules, drenches, pellets, pour-ons or as loose licks.
  • Top-dressing pastures.

More information

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