The Effects of Drought on Trace Mineral Status of Breeding Cattle

The Effects of Drought on Trace Mineral Status of Breeding Cattle

John Paterson, PhD

The biggest threat from drought to long-term reproduction of cows is the lack of available forage which results in her ability to rebreed. In other words, is there enough forage for her to meet nutritional requirements? Are the cows in adequate body condition? Cows with a body condition score of 4 at calving are expected to have a lower pregnancy rate or longer postpartum interval than cows with a condition score of 5. Because drought can cause lower body condition scores, ranchers may observe herds with 50-60% pregnancy rates compared to a normal of 80-90%. The following picture shows cows grazing drought impacted range in AZ. Conception rates varied between 55 and 70%.

Drought-impacted forages may be low in trace minerals which can also lead to a reduced ability to cycle causing a failure to breed back and have a live healthy calf. Average mineral concentration of grasses from a MT study showed that Cu and Zn in grasses were deficient (< 6 ppm Cu) and < 21 ppm for Zn. The requirement for Cu is 10 ppm and 30 ppm for Zn. Similar results were also reported for native grasses in TX. Reproductively, a deficiency in Cu can lead to decreased conception rates, infertility, silent heats and fetal resorption. Other symptoms include: poor growth, rough hair coat, fragile bones, diarrhea, and cardiac failure. Zinc (Zn) deficient cows appear to display abnormal estrus as well as reduced fertility. Manganese (Mn) deficiency will result in impaired ovulation while a deficiency of selenium (Se) can lead to cystic ovaries and erratic, weak or silent heat periods. All four of these trace minerals can be provided by a Multimin®90 injection at critical production periods (calving, branding/prebreeding, weaning).

In one research study, cows were provided Zn, Cu and Mn supplementation and were compared to cows not given any additional Cu, Zn or Mn. The average length of time from the beginning of the breeding season to conception was 22 days for trace mineral supplemented cows compared to 42 days for non-supplemented cows.

Theoretically this could translate into a difference of 40 lbs. of weaning weight (2 lbs./day ADG preweaning x 20 days). In another study while there was no effect on overall pregnancy rates, cows injected with trace minerals had a significant change in calving distribution. A greater proportion of cows treated with the injected trace minerals calved in the first 20 days of the calving season (77.5%) compared to the untreated controls (65%).

Under normal grazing conditions the absorption of trace minerals through the rumen is quite poor- manganese ~1%, copper ~5%, zinc ~15% and selenium ~30%. High levels of other minerals in the feed or water such as iron, calcium, molybdenum and sulphur can also cause antagonism in the rumen, binding to the trace minerals and preventing absorption or utilization. Injecting trace minerals like MULTIMIN® 90 avoids these antagonisms and absorption issues and allows the trace minerals to be immediately absorbed into the blood stream.

It is well known that trace mineral demands are not constant throughout the production cycle. For example, trace minerals influence embryonic and fetal survival, and during late pregnancy the fetus accumulates trace minerals in the liver, thereby increasing the trace mineral requirements of the dam. At calving, lactation and increased stress on the immune and reproductive systems leads to increased demand for trace minerals. Trace minerals are essential components of the immune and reproductive systems, mostly due to their roles as metalloenzymes.

Supplementing with injectable trace minerals in the pre-breeding period could improve fertility in your herd by rapidly increasing trace mineral stores in the liver, which could result in a tighter calving distribution pattern. To demonstrate absorption the following graphs show how fast injectable trace minerals show up in the liver (blue area in the graphs).

Remember, injectable trace minerals are not affected by ruminal antagonists.

Calves that were stressed due to recent weaning and shipping exhibited lowered immunity and increased disease susceptibility; therefore, an adequate supply of trace minerals is especially critical in beef cattle receiving diets for stocker cattle. Feed intake is decreased in stressed cattle and the level of certain minerals may need to be increased to compensate for the low feed intake. Furthermore, nutritional status of calves prior to weaning and shipping may greatly influence health problems shortly after shipping. Calves deficient or marginally deficient in certain trace elements are likely to be more susceptible to infectious diseases.  This is why an injection of MULTIMIN® 90 can be beneficial in helping to combat disease; especially when combined with a weaning vaccination protocol. In an interesting study from the University of Arkansas, calves were purchased from auction markets and were evaluated for morbidity and performance in a growyard for 55 days.  Calves that did not receive injectable trace minerals had a first pull rate of 87% compared to 55% for MULTIMIN® 90 treated calves. The third round of morbidity treatments showed that nontreated calves had a 32% pull rate vs. 10% pull rates for calves treated with MULTIMIN® 90.Gains were improved by .38 lbs./day and return on investment was 12 to 1 for MULTIMIN® 90 treated calves.

The use of injectable trace minerals has demonstrated an improvement in reproductive efficiency, rapid uptake by the liver, better immune function and greater return on investment.

Learn more about how MULTIMIN® 90 can support your herd in drought conditions and contact your MULTIMIN® USA Technical Sales Representative.

Alabama Pasture to Rail Program Wigginton Farm

Alabama Pasture to Rail Program

Wigginton Farm

On Tuesday, September 15, 2020, the Wigginton Farm in Somerville, AL was used as the drop off location for Alabama cattle farmers to bring their cattle for shipment to Hy-Plains Feedyard in Montezuma, Kansas. Jim and Kim Jordan of Lineville, AL (30 head) and Heath Lowery of Ashville, AL (11 head), also brought cattle for shipment. By pulling their cattle together for shipment, it cuts down on the costs.

Sheri Chapman, Territory Rep of Multimin USA and Dr. Dan Tracy, veterinarian, were there to oversee the timed-release injection of each head of cattle with the MULTIMIN® 90. MULTIMIN® 90 is an injectable, aqueous supplemental source of zinc, copper, selenium, and manganese. It is formulated according to NRC requirements of cattle. Trace minerals are important for reproduction, immunity, and immune response to vaccines. Since stressed animals have decreased appetites, the cattle are injected with MULTIMIN® 90 during transporting and feedlot receiving time.

Alex Tigue, Alabama Pasture to Rail Coordinator from Auburn University Extension Services, was onsite to tag, weigh, and grade the cattle for input into the computer system.


Wigginton Farm cattle were approximately 30-days ahead of schedule this year for heading out west to the Hy-Plains Feedyard in Montezuma, KS. Some of the stocker cattle at 10 months old weighed in at an impressive 1,070lbs.
Pictured from left, Mickey Childers – FSA, Josh Melson – Ag Teacher at Brewer High School, Rance Wigginton, Danny McWilliams – Colbert Co Extension Coordinator, Doug Wigginton, Author Orr – Senator, Alex Tigue – Alabama Pasture to Rail Coordinator, Sheri Chapman – Multimin USA Territory Rep and Dan Tracy – Veterinarian. Not pictured: Gerry Thompson – Regional Agent Extension Services.

About the Pasture to Rail Program

Alabama Pasture to Rail is  retained ownership program allowing beef producers to collect post-weaning performance data, health data, and carcass data on cattle on cattle from their breeding program. This allows producers to determine whether changes need to be made to the breeding program for post-weaning traits.

Why Participate?

Understanding how calves fit into the entire beef chain is critical for optimal marketing. Obtaining post-weaning and carcass information on calves will allow producers to edit their breeding program and strengthen their position in marketing calves each year.

Southeastern cattle represent 25 percent of the calves being fed in the United States feedlots annually. For most producers, calves are sold a weaning. Because of the U.S. beef industry fragmentation, little to no feedback is provided back to the cow/calf level. However, in the end, a high quality carcass is the most valuable item cow/calf operation producers, but it is the last thing producers are paid for.

As the U.S. beef industry moves forward, the prosperity of the entire industry rests on is customers. IN 2015 beef process were 57 percent higher than pork and 207 percent higher than chicken. The demand for beef has remained strong because customers still want taste. Much of beef’s flavor is enhanced by the amount of marbling in the beef. In early 2015, sales of prime and branded choice beef surpassed sales of select beef for the first time backing up the claim that our customers want taste.


The Alabama Pasture to Rail Program is an education program for cattle producers. The purpose is to give cattle producers the following opportunities without the investment required to finish an entire pen of cattle.

  • To obtain individual animal data for post-weaning performance, health performance, and carcass merit that can be used to assist producers with selection decisions pertaining to existing breeding, nutrition, and health programs.
  • To educate cattle producers on recommended health practices and custom feeding programs.

Additional questions may be directed to Alex Tigue (256) 309-9496

This article has been republished with permission from the Morgan County Soil and Water District Newsletter. View the original publication here.

New Iowa State University Study

Comparison of multiple single-use, pulse-dose trace mineral products provided as injectable, oral drench, oral paste, or bolus on circulating and liver trace mineral concentrations of beef steers



The objective was to determine effects of various trace mineral products on steer plasma and liver trace mineral concentrations.

Materials and Methods

Fifty-six trace mineral adequate Angus-cross steers (303 ± 15.2 kg; n = 8 per treatment) were sorted by BW and administered treatments on d 0: injectable saline (CON), injectable Multimin90 (ITM), Mineral Max Drench (MMD), Mineral Max Paste (MMP), Starting Fluid Drench (SFD), Se365 bolus (Se365), or Reloader250 bolus (Rel250). Steers received a common diet (silage-based diet d 0–49; corn-based diet d 50–122), and individual feed disappearance was recorded. Plasma (0, 8, 24, and 48 h) and liver (−7, 2, 15, 29, 49, 65, 91, and 120 d) were analyzed for Cu, Mn, Se, and Zn.

Results and Discussion

Plasma Zn, Mn, and Se concentrations were affected by treatment × time (P = 0.001); steers given ITM had greater concentrations through 8 h for Zn and 24 h for Mn and Se versus other treatments. Liver Se concentration was greater in ITM versus other treatments through d 15, but Rel250 was greater than ITM and MMP on d 91 and greater than CON, MMD, MMP, and SFD on d 120 (treatment × time; P ≤ 0.001). Liver Mn, Zn, and Cu were affected by time (P ≤ 0.001), where liver Mn concentrations were least on d 2 and increased over time but liver Zn concentrations were greatest on d 2 and least on d 29 to 120.

Implications and Applications

Single-use, pulse-dose products increased circulating trace minerals most quickly as an injection (increasing plasma Mn, Se, Zn) compared with other treatments, whereas liver Se concentrations were increased by injection (through d 29) and Rel250 (by d 91).