Establishing a protocol for receiving cattle that are at-risk of having a mineral deficiency

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2018: $206,209.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2022
Grant Recipient: Utah State University
Region: Western
State: Utah
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Kara Thornton
Utah State University


  • Animals: bovine
  • Animal Products: meat


  • Animal Production: animal protection and health, feed management, mineral supplements, vaccines
  • Education and Training: extension, on-farm/ranch research

    Proposal abstract:

    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.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The overall goal of this proposal 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.
    Narrative SW18-058 Thornton, Rood, Garcia, Tarbet
    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.
    Narrative SW18-058 Thornton, Rood, Garcia, Tarbet
    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.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.