Ruminant Nutrition News - 4/29/97

Effects of copper or iron on calf immune response in the presence of high molybdenum levels.

Research conducted at North Carolina State University by G. P. Gengelbach, et. Al. (including Dr. Jerry Spears, well known for his trace mineral research) showed increased tumor necrosis factor (TNF) in the presence of respiratory disease challenge in calves born to dams fed copper adequate or high-iron diets compared to dams fed high-molybdenum (Cu deficient) diets. TNF is a cytokine involved in regulating immune response.

This research shows calves born to dams supplemented with adequate copper had significantly better and more sustained response to infection.

Work I have done on a local level indicates that our high soil and water molybdenum levels will retard the cow's ability to effect the calf's immune response so dramatically, even in cows getting "normal" supplementation, that scours and respiratory infections become almost untreatable, most particularly in the presence of marginal or low energy and protein diets.

The key here is to make sure you know your area's feed and water mineral and trace mineral content, to know your herd's nutrient status by using pooled liver biopsy, and to have a professional nutritionist evaluate the interrelationships of those values.

By feeding your cows adequate levels of minerals and trace minerals, and balancing locally indigenous mineral and trace mineral deficiencies or toxicities during the last trimester of pregnancy, you will cut your calf rearing costs by 25% in medicine alone, and have more calf to sell at weaning. Most commercially designed or locally available supplements do not take into consideration the effects of these trace mineral deficiencies and may lead you to believe that you are properly supplementing your cows and that your calf health problem is a veterinary concern.

I am conducting a local survey this spring with, hopefully, 7,000 cows and 70 producers to find the local effects of basal diet and type of supplementation of cows during their third trimester of pregnancy and the effects on calf health. The study should be available at this site by mid-summer.