Differences in Selenium and Copper Metabolism between Brahman and Angus cattle

Juliana Ranches with calf.

by Juliana Ranches, Ph.D. Candidate, UF Animal Sciences, UF/IFAS Range Cattle Research and Education Center, Ona

Copper and selenium are trace minerals required for cattle’s optimum performance. Selenium works as an important antioxidant, while copper is required for the function of over 30 enzymes. The lack of these trace minerals in cattle diets can lead to copper and selenium deficiency, which are the most common trace mineral deficiencies for grazing cattle around the world.  The deficiency of these minerals can result in reduced performance, impaired immune response, and reproductive failure.

In Florida, the soil concentrations of copper and selenium are usually low, reflecting in low concentrations of both minerals in forages grown on these soils. In order to avoid mineral deficiencies, a mineral supplementation strategy is required. Regardless of the type of supplementation strategy chosen, the target intake of the supplement should be based on the established nutritional requirements for cattle (NRC, 2016)1.  These requirements are general nutritional guidelines for the specific nutrients found in a cattle’s diet, including minerals.

An aspect of mineral supplementation that is sometimes overlooked is the cattle breed being used in the operation. In recent years, research has shown that cattle breed may play a role in the metabolism of minerals, which could suggest different mineral requirements for each breed.

To evaluate the effects of cattle breed on the metabolism of copper and selenium, our research group conducted a two-year study to identify potential differences in copper and selenium metabolism between purebred Black Angus and Brahman cows. This study was recently presented in the September 10, “Ona Graduate Student Highlight” webinar. The webinar recording provides an overview of the literature pertinent to the metabolism of copper and selenium in cattle, and detailed information about our study procedures, development, and results.

Click here to access the video recording and a printable PDF of the presentation.

1 NRC. 2016. Nutrient Requirements of Beef Cattle: Eighth Revised Edition. he National Academies Press.,   Washington, DC.

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