PhD: Improving the health and performance of UK dairy cows through better copper nutrition

Published 19 July 19

Research Partner: Harper Adams University

Start and End Date: October 2016 - October 2019

PhD Student: James McCaughern

Even though copper (Cu) is the most widely reported mineral deficiency, the UK’s winter fed cows are frequently over supplemented, as shown by a recent survey. The reasons for this include a limited perception of the harmful consequences of an elevated copper status even when clinical signs of toxicity are not present and a poor understanding of the nutritional factors influencing copper absorption such as the antagonists sulphur and molybdenum.

The objectives of this project are

  • To determine the effect of Cu supplementation level during the rearing phase on replacement dairy heifer performance, health and fertility

  • To determine the effect of lifetime Cu supplementation level on performance, health and fertility during the first lactation

  • To determine the effect of rumen pH on the metabolism of copper absorption antagonists

The project will increase the knowledge on the relationship between Cu antagonists and rumen pH and on the sub-clinical consequences of Cu loading. Farmers will get practical advice on Cu supplementation strategies by taking into account requirements and dietary factors which can affect absorption.  

The project is part of the Research Partnership on Dairy Cow Health, Welfare and Nutrition with the University of Nottingham.