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Improving immunity of farm animals through trace mineral management

The key takeaways from this article

  • A systemic inflammation process leads to re-partitioning of nutrients towards the immune system.
  • Oxidative stress has a negative impact on immune competence, growth, and fertility.
  • Both the amount and the source of trace mineral that is fed can help to improve immunity and performance.

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Healthy animals for sustainable farming

Sustainable farming meets the following criteria:

  • Economic: it is effective and efficient, meaning that it produces the feed required to feed the world population in an efficient way, while generating an income for the farmer
  • It deals with concerns about public health, e.g., responsible use of antimicrobials, avoiding pharmacological dosing of trace minerals etc.
  • It addresses issues with animal welfare
  • It has a minimal impact on the environment and on climate change

All of these criteria can only be met with healthy farm animals. Trace mineral management can improve immunity of farm animals. Sandra Villagómez Estrada from the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona and Davi Brito de Araujo, Global Program Manager Trace Minerals in Trouw Nutrition presented the latest scientific insights with regard to the impact of trace mineral management on health and immunity of farm animals.

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TMR spoilage can already begin at temperatures of 21°C

In a trial at Kempenshof Ruminant Research Centre involving 120 dairy cows, Selko TMR proved to be effective in improving milk production during warm weather. While maintaining dry matter intake, cows on Selko TMR showed an increase in milk yield, particularly a 1.7 kg rise in the 5th week, and significantly higher milk solids.

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A study revealed Selko TMR's role in TMR preservation, maintaining feed quality and enhancing milk output. By mitigating TMR spoilage and heating, it demonstrated a 0.9 kg/h/d milk production increase, highlighting its importance in feed management during cooler seasons.

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How can we improve animal health through trace mineral management?

Prevention is better than cure[1]. High quality nutrition should contain correct levels of trace elements and is essential during that are critical to the animal such as gestation, parturition, transition, lactation, weaning, management changes (vaccination, shipping, new groups, new diets) or environmental changes (heat stress, ventilation, comfort).

How does the immune system affect performance of production animals?

Firstly, an inflammation process leads to re-partitioning of nutrients towards the immune system[2]. E.g., circulating IL-1β → negatively correlated with weight gain and protein accretion. High metabolic and energy demands can lead to oxidative stress, which in term has a negative impact on immune competence, growth, and fertility[3]. A diet that fails to provide essential nutrients in the correct form can be a secondary pathogenic agent[4].

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The impact of trace mineral management on immunity and inflammation

Weaning induces a transient gut inflammation, leading to an increase of expression levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-1β, IL-6 and TNFα. This in term results in impaired intestinal integrity and epithelial function. High levels of zinc can reduce mucosal inflammation and diarrhea[5,6], but is this sustainable?

The source of trace mineral can be important. Pigs fed hydroxy trace minerals were better able to deal with an LPS challenge[7] and their immune system was better able to deal with a challenge with PED virus than those fed sulphates[8]. The effect of hydroxy forms of trace minerals on oxidative stress was better compared to sulphates in weaned pigs[9,10], sows[11] and broilers[12].

In dairy cattle, feeding hydroxy trace minerals instead of sulphates had a positive impact on gut health and reduced inflammation after 5 days of feed restriction[13], and reduced oxidative stress and inflammation during transition resulting in an increase of peak milk production[14]. In feedlot steers, it decreased the amounts of Treponema present on hoofs and it reduced the incidence of foot rot[15].


Feeding the correct levels and the correct from of trace minerals can have a strong positive effect on health and welfare of production animals.


  1. Ducrot, C, Bed’Hom, B, Berinque, V, Coulon, J.B, Fourichon, C, Guerin, J.L, Krebs, S, Rainard, P, Schwartz-Cornil, I, Torny, D, Vayssier-Taussad, M, Zientara, S, Zundel, T. and T. Pineau (2011). Issues and special features of animal health research, Vet. Research. 42:96.
  2. Escobar, J, Van Alstine, W.G, Baker, D.H. and R. W. Johnson (2004).Decreased Protein Accretion in Pigs with Viral and Bacterial Pneumonia Is Associated with Increased Myostatin Expression in Muscle. Journal of Nutrition, 134:11, 3047–3053.
  3. Puppel K., Kapusta A. and B. Kuczynska (2015). The etiology of oxidative stress in the various species of Animals, a review. J. Science of Food and Agriculture 95, 2179-2184.
  4. Bailey R., West K.J., Black R. The epidemiology of global micronutrient deficiencies. Ann. Nutr. Metab. 2015:66:22–33.
  5. Hu, C, Song, J, Li, Y, Luan, Z. and K. Zhu (2013). Diosmectite-zinc oxide composite improves intestinal barrier function, modulates expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines and tight junction protein in early weaned pigs. Br. J. Nutr. 110(4):681-8.
  6. Liu, P, Pieper, R, Rieger, J, Vahjen, W, Davin, R, Plendl, J, Meyer, W and J. Zentek (2014) Effect of Dietary Zinc Oxide on Morphological Characteristics, Mucin Composition and Gene Expressionin the Colon of Weaned Piglets. PLoS One, 9, e91091.
  7. Schaaf, S, Carter, S.D, Cooper, C.V, Aparachita, P, Silva Lara, I, Shili, C, Perryman, K.R. and J. L. Usry (2018). Effect of Dietary Source and Concentrations of Copper, Manganese, and Zinc on Growth Performance and Immune Response of Nursery Pigs Following an Acute Lipopolysaccharide Challenge. J. Anim. Sci, 96, S2: 135–136,
  8. Haberl, B, Perryman, K.R. and J.L. Usry (2018). Effect of dietary mineral source on the clearance time of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus in the saliva of commercial gilts. J. Anim. Sci, 96, S2:120.
  9. Villagómez-Estrada, S, Pérez, J.F, van Kuijk, S, Melo-Durán, D, Karimirad, R. and D. Solà-Oriol (2020). Dietary Preference of Newly Weaned Pigs and Nutrient Interactions According to Copper Levels and Sources with Different Solubility Characteristics. Animals 10(7): 1133.
  10. Fry, R. S, Spears, J.W, Lloyd, K.E, O'Nan, A.T. and M. S. Ashwel (2012). Effect of dietary copper and breed on gene products involved in copper acquisition, distribution, and use in Angus and Simmental cows and fetuses. J. Anim. Sci, 91:861-871
  11. Lu N. and M. Lindemann (2018). Copper Levels and Sources for Sows. Proceedings of the 18th Annual Midwest Swine Nutrition Conference proceedings. 18: 21-28.
  12. Olukosi, O.A, van Kuijk, S.J.A. and Y. Han (2019). Sulfate and hydroxychloride trace minerals in poultry diets – comparative effects on egg production and quality in laying hens, and growth performance and oxidative stress response in broilers. Poultry Science, 98(10): 4961-4971.
  13. Horst, E.A., Mayorga, E.J, Al-Qaisi, M, Rodriguez-Jimenez, S, Goetz, B.M, Abeyta, A.M, Gorden, P.J, Kvidera, S.K. and L.H. Baumgard (2020). Evaluating effects of zinc hydroxychloride on biomarkers of inflammation and intestinal integrity during feed restriction. J. Dairy Sci. J. Dairy Sci. 103:11911-11929.
  14. Yasui, T, Ryan, C.M, Gilbert, R.O, Perryman, K.R. and T. R. Overton (2014). Effects of hydroxy trace minerals on oxidative metabolism, cytological endometritis, and performance of transition dairy cows. J. Dairy Sci. 97: 3728-3738.
  15. Hilscher, F. H, Laudert, S.B, Heldt, J.S, Cooper, R.J, Dicke, B.D, Jordon, J.D, Scott, T.L. and G. E. Erickson (2019). Effect of copper and zinc source on finishing performance and incidence of foot rot in feedlot steers. Appl. Animal Sci. 35:94-100.

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The effect of trace mineral management on health and immunity

Download the presentation of Sandra Villagómez Estrada, Ph.D., Researcher at SNiBA - UAB and Davi Brito de Araujo, D.V.M, M.S, M.A.B., Global Trace Minerals Program Manager Trouw Nutrition, which explains how to address specific animal production challenges with regards to economical production, feed efficiency, public health, environement, animal health and welfare, reduction of greenhouse gasses and nutrient excretion. The latest science withregard to trace mineral management to address these challenges was discussed during the presentation.

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