The western US produces nearly 25% of the calf crop in the country and houses approximately
18% of the total feedlot cattle. However, this region is primarily comprised of arid rangelands
with limited forage production and both seasonal and yearly extremes in forage quality.
Specifically, many areas in the western US are known to be deficient in copper, zinc, manganese
and/or selenium. Despite these known deficiencies, there are no standard protocols available to
help producers successfully receive cattle that are at-risk for having a mineral deficiency. Trace
minerals are required for proper immune cell function and are especially important in stressed or
disease challenged animals, such as newly received feedlot cattle. In the western US, annual
death losses of cattle total 336,000 and disease is the causative factor in 31.5% of these deaths.
The proposed research will determine the best practices for producers to assimilate at-risk cattle
into their operations, resulting in both improved cattle health and economic viability of
producers. In this project, two different research trials will be conducted: 1) a mineral deficiency
will be created in stressed, receiving cattle and different strategies will be tested to determine
which method best improves mineral deficiency, immune status and feedlot performance; and 2)
the findings of research trial one will be used in trial two in an applied setting where cattle
coming from areas known to be mineral deficient will be obtained and placed at a commercial
feedlot and treated with the best practices determined in trial one. Additionally, information
learned during the course of this research trial will be disseminated to the public and producers
through publication of extension fact sheets, traditional university field days, development of online
modules, and presentations as well as trainings for extension agents and VoAg teachers to
ensure these findings reach a broad audience.
The overall goal of this research is to determine the best practices producers can employ
when receiving feedlot cattle that are at-risk of being mineral deficient. The following
objectives will be completed to reach the overall goal:
Objective 1. Determine the effects of different receiving strategies designed to mitigate
mineral deficiency on subsequent cattle performance while in the feedlot.
Hypothesis: We hypothesize that provision of minerals to mineral deficient, or “at-risk,” cattle
prior to vaccination will result in improved animal performance when compared to at-risk
animals that are vaccinated while having a low mineral status.
Sub-objective 1.1. Determine the optimum intervention strategy in order to mitigate the
effects of low mineral status within cattle. We will analyze different methods of providing
mineral supplementation. In addition, we will also investigate the time required for each
supplementation method to produce adequate mineral levels within cattle. This will provide
integral information that will allow for the determination of how different mineral intervention
strategies affect animal mineral status.
Sub-objective 1.2. Determine the effects of different intervention strategies on feedlot
performance and carcass quality of receiving calves. This will determine how different
intervention strategies affect gain, feed intake, feed efficiency, fat deposition, carcass quality and
incidences of morbidity and mortality while animals are in a feedlot setting. Collection of this
data will provide important insight into how different intervention strategies impact subsequent
performance of animals.
Sub-objective 1.3. Determine the economic impacts for producers associated with each
different mineral intervention strategy and subsequent animal performance. In order to
make this work relevant to producers, it is important that we complete an economic analysis to
show producers how these different mineral intervention strategies may impact their bottom line.
Completion of objective 1 will determine the necessary length of the intervention strategies to
increase mineral status and the effects mineral status on feedlot performance, as well as the
economic production costs associated with poor mineral status resulting from poor animal
Objective 2. Determine how the mineral status of receiving cattle influences their ability to
respond to vaccination.
Hypothesis: We hypothesize that receiving cattle that have a mineral deficiency will not respond
as well to vaccination, resulting in increased incidence of morbidity and/or mortality.
Sub-Objective 2.1. Determine the effects of mineral status intervention on vaccine immune
response of animals. This will determine whether mineral deficiency alters vaccine response as
well as which intervention strategies can be employed to improve vaccine response and, thus, the
health of the animal.
Sub-Objective 2.2. Determine the effects of mineral status intervention on respiratory
disease occurrence and vaccine immune response of animals. Collection of this data will
provide valuable insight into whether or not these different mineral intervention strategies impact
both the number of occurrences and the severity of bovine respiratory disease episodes in these
Completion of objective 2 will provide insights into the effect of mineral status on disease and
vaccine response in receiving feedlot cattle.
Objective 3. Execute an innovative and impactful outreach program on the implementation
of strategies to improve mineral status in receiving cattle.
Outreach Plan: Improve communication among cow-calf producers, feedlot producers, and
researcher and extension personnel by building a communication network facilitated by a
partnership between producers and Utah State University.
Sub-objective 3.1. Publish and present data obtained from the research trials through
traditional extension channels. The results of the research project will be shared through
traditional channels such as publication in scientific journals and extension facts sheets. In
addition, several field days designed to disseminate research results will be hosted by Utah State
Sub-objective 3.2. Development of educational materials for a “train the trainer” program
to assess mineral status and supplementation protocols in beef cattle. Our extension team
will institute a “train the trainer” program in which Utah county extension agents as well as
appropriate personnel from other states will be trained to help their constituents determine the
mineral status of their herds and measures to address mineral deficiencies. These trainings will
occur both “in-person” and through development and use of on-line modules.
Sub-objective 3.3. Develop on-line learning modules that can be accessed by all members of
the public around the country. We will develop online learning modules that can be accessed
by anyone that has access to the internet. These learning materials will be geared towards
educating producers, researchers, VoAg teachers, and extension agents on how different mineral
supplementation strategies at receiving can impact subsequent cattle performance and the
economics of the operation.
We hypothesize that provision of minerals to mineral deficient, or “at-risk,” receiving cattle prior to vaccination will result in improved animal performance when compared to at-risk animals that are vaccinated while having a low mineral status.
To achieve the overall project goal, we propose two different research trials. In the first, mineral deficiency will be created in steers obtained from the Utah State University Ranch. This mineral deficiency will be created by not supplementing the calves with any minerals once they have been weaned and providing the animals with feeds that are known to be mineral deficient. Liver testing will be completed to ensure that these animals are in fact mineral deficient. These animals will then be subjected to travel stress and received at the Utah State University Feedlot. The Utah State University is equipped with a full working facility, including a hydraulic squeeze chute, as well as individual pens that the animals will be fed in to gain individual measurements. Three different intervention strategies will then be employed and compared to a control group (no intervention). The four treatment groups will be: 1) control, no treatment, n=10; 2) multi-min® injection, n=10; 3) provision of chelated/organic minerals, n=10; and 4) provision of traditional, non-chelated minerals, n=10. Animals will be vaccinated within 24-48 hours after receiving as per typical feedlot practices. Blood and liver samples will be collected on days 0, 2, 4, 7, 10 and 15 after intervention strategies have been administered to determine immunity and mineral status, respectively. All treatment groups will then be combined in a traditional feedlot setting where performance data, as well as morbidity and mortality occurrences, will be recorded.
In the second research trial, receiving cattle from known mineral deficient backgrounds will be obtained and placed at one of two commercial feedlots in Utah: JY Ferry and Sons Cattle Feeding (owned and operated by Mr. John Ferry) and Venice Feed and Livestock (owned and operated by Mr. Jeremy Cowley). Venice Feed and Livestock specializes in receiving “at-risk” cattle and often receives cattle from the Navajo Nation and the Arizona Strip, areas which are known to be mineral deficient. Mr. John Ferry custom feeds cattle from all over the western United States and, especially during times of drought, has to manage mineral deficient cattle. The two best practices determined in research trial 1 will each be employed by the producers to determine how the findings of the research trial work in a ‘real-life’ production setting.
Objective 1. Determine the effects of different receiving strategies designed to mitigate mineral deficiency on cattle performance while in the feedlot.
Sub-objective 1.1. Determine the optimum intervention strategy in order to mitigate the effects of low mineral status within cattle. In order to determine mineral status of each animal, liver biopsies and serum will be collected on days 0, 2, 4, 7, 10 and 15 after implementation of the different intervention strategies to determine the time frame during which mineral deficient cattle remain ‘at-risk’ after receiving mineral supplementation. This will be completed in all animals in research trial one and in a sub-set of animals from each of the feed yards involved in research trial two. We will analyze mineral status in both blood and liver because each measurement presents unique insight into the mineral status of an animal. Blood measures are frequently used in assessment because they are significantly correlated to nutritional status of some trace minerals (15). However, there are several limitations to utilizing blood mineral analyses (16). Liver is the organ that often best represents the status of many trace minerals in animals (17). As such, we will utilize both types of analyses. Mineral status will be determined in both blood and liver using high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) techniques as previously described (18). The minerals that will be tested are cobalt, copper, iron, iodine, manganese, molybdenum, selenium and zinc, each of these minerals has been shown to have agricultural and economic impact in the western US (19).
Sub-objective 1.2. Determine the effects of different intervention strategies on feedlot performance and carcass quality of receiving calves. All animals in research trial 1 will be housed at the USU South Farm Feedlot and will be fed individually and weighed bi-weekly to determine intake, feed efficiency, and average daily gain. Additionally, back fat thickness and rib-eye area will be measured by a trained technician bi-weekly when animals are weighed to assess efficiency of muscle and fat deposition within the animals. Animals will also be monitored for occurrences of morbidity and mortality through the trial. Occurrence and duration of sickness as well as the associated treatment costs will be recorded to access morbidity. Once animals have reach 7 mm of back fat thickness, they will be harvested at a JBC commercial harvest facility located in Hyrum, UT. Economically important carcass traits will be obtained, including hot carcass weight, ribeye area, quality grade, yield grade, back fat thickness and marbling score. These measurements will also be obtained from both feedlots involved in research trial 2. We will obtain monthly weight and ultrasound measurements and will also obtain pen average daily intake values. We will not be able to obtain individual intakes as neither of these facilities has the necessary infrastructure. We will also track these trial 2 cattle through harvest and obtain the same carcass measurements that were described above for trial 1 animals.
Sub-objective 1.3. Determine the economic impacts for producers associated with each different mineral intervention strategy and subsequent animal performance. To do this, we will assess the costs (mineral, labor, time etc.) associated with each intervention strategy relative to how the animal subsequently performs in the feedlot. We will analyze gain, feed efficiency, and costs associated with treatment of sickness. The actual costs differences and differences from the different mineral supplementation strategies will be analyzed to determine which method results in the greatest economic return for the producers. All economic analyses will be performed by Dr. Matt Garcia.
Objective 2. Determine how mineral status of receiving cattle alters their ability to respond to vaccination.
Sub-Objective 2.1. Determine the effects of mineral status intervention on vaccine immune response of animals. To determine the ability of the animals to respond to vaccination after different intervention strategies, we will conduct a longitudinal cohort study. Cattle in all treatment groups will be administered an upper respiratory viral (IBR, PI3, BVD, BRSV) vaccine per standard receiving protocol and labeled instructions. Vaccine response will be measured by analyzing immunoglobulin and immune cytokines present in the blood on days 0, 2, 5, 7, 10 and 15 after receiving an intervention treatment. Immune status will be measured in all animals in research trial 2 and a sub-set (n=100 per feedlot) of animals used in research trial 2 to determine the effects of mineral status on physiological parameters of immunity in receiving cattle.
Sub-Objective 2.2. Determine the effects of mineral status intervention on respiratory disease occurrences. The cohort of receiving cattle will be monitored for respiratory sickness (cases) daily and those displaying clinical signs of upper respiratory disease will be pulled for treatment. Temperatures from cattle with signs of coughing, increased respiratory rates, lethargy, or reluctance to eat will be taken daily. Those with clinical signs and a rectal temperature greater than or equal to 40oC will be classified as a case. Mineral status will be compared to development of disease to discern whether the intervention strategies employed affect disease occurrence. In addition, costs associated with treatments will be recorded to determine the economic effect that the different intervention strategies have on animal health and performance.
Objective 3. Execute an innovative and impactful outreach program on the successful implementation of different strategies to improve mineral status in receiving cattle.
Outreach Plan: Improve communication among cow-calf producers, feedlot producers, and researcher and extension personnel by building an interactive communication network that will be facilitated through a partnership between producers and Utah State University.
Sub-objective 3.1. Publish and present results of the research trials through traditional extension channels. Results will be published in technical and trade journals, and in extension fact sheets. The data obtained in this research will also be published in peer-reviewed, scientific journals. Findings will be presented at popular venues attended by producers such as the Utah Beef Cattle Field Day (Provo, UT), Utah Cattlemen’s Convention (SLC, UT), Cowman’s Repro Workshop (Alton, UT), and the Arizona/Utah Range Cattle Symposium (Hurricane, UT). In addition, findings will be presented at national scientific conferences, such as the annual meeting for the American Society for Animal Science.
Sub-objective 3.2. Development of educational materials for a “train the trainer” program to assess mineral status and supplementation protocols in beef cattle. Materials, such as presentations and informational sheets, will be created for both extension agents and VoAg teachers. This “train the trainer” model is known to multiply outcomes. Agents will be trained at USU’s annual extension conference (March) and annual area in-service training (September) with full access to printed, multimedia, and presentation medium. Furthermore, the project producers will hold on-site demonstrations at their ranches to give producers a hands-on opportunity to see the results of the proposed research project.
Sub-objective 3.3. Develop on-line learning modules that can be accessed by all members of the public around the country. On-line learning modules will be developed in coordination with USU extension services as well as the USU College of Agricultural and Applied Sciences marketing team. These will be short video clips that are accompanied by more in-depth materials, such as extension articles and online quizzes. These on-line learning modules will accessible by anyone who has on-line access and will be geared towards providing the information to producers, VoAg teachers and county extension agents.
Development of this extension program will be integral for producers located across the western region of the United States and in the country as a whole. The effects of climate change are felt in some way by most people around the world. These effects are also particularly relevant to the agricultural industry as alterations in climate have a profound effect on quality and composition of feedstuffs, which directly impacts productivity and health of livestock. As such, it is imperative that we gain understanding as to the proper way to handle mineral deficient cattle as well as distribute this information to producers nationally, with particular emphasis on the Western United States.
We have not yet obtained any research results. We are preparing to begin the feed trial at USU over the summer of 2019. After completion of this trial, we will have results to report.
Educational & Outreach Activities
To date, we have not yet completed many education and outreach activities as the research is still underway so we do not have any new findings to report to producers or the scientific community.
Dr. Kara Thornton did have an interview with an individual from WSARE who is going to publish an article describing our research project.