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The impact of trace mineral management on semen quality of bulls

The key takeaways from this article

  • Cu and Zn status in breeding sires fed IntelliBond trace minerals was better compared to breding sires fed anorganic trace mineral sources.
  • Supplementation of bulls with IntelliBond trace minerals improved semen quality

Improving semen quality of breeding bulls with IntelliBond trace minerals

First service conception rate after calving is crucial to improve the reproductive performance of dairy cows[1]. A decrease in first service conception rates can result in an increase in the number of inseminations, number of days open, feeding cost, culling loss, and replacement heifers costs[2,3]. One of the factors impacting first service conception rate of dairy cows is the quality of the bull semen used.

IntelliBond hydroxy trace minerals have been validated by independant research to improve trace mineral status, which can lead to improved bull semen quality, enhanced embryo quality and improvement in AI pregnancy rates. A trial[4] was carried out to measure the impact of trace mineral source on liver mineral status and spermatozoa characteristics in mature bulls.

Figure 1: impact of different trace mineral sources on progressive motility of sperm cells and on sperm concentration.

Materials and methods

A total of 37 mature bulls, aged 2-4 years were included in the study. The animals were not supplemented with trace minerals for 2-6 months prior to the start of study. After this adjustment period, different trace mineral sources were fed for 71 days. One group of bulls was not supplemented with Cu, Zn or Mn, one group was supplemented with Cu, Zn, and Mn sulfates and one group was supplemented with IntelliBond hydroxy trace mineral forms of Cu, Zn and M. Supplements containing Cu, Zn, and Mn were fed at 75% of NRC requirements of dairy cattle.

Liver biopsies were collected on days -73, -24, and 71 to determine trace mineral status. Semen was collected on days 0, 36, and 70. Ejaculates were evaluated for spermatozoa concentration, motility, and morphology as part of a standard breeding soundness examination.

Results, trace mineral status of bulls

On day 71, liver Cu concentrations of bulls receiving IntelliBond hydroxy trace minerals were greater (P = 0.008) than bulls receiving no mineral supplement or sulfate minerals. Liver Zn concentrations tended to be greater (P = 0.08) in bulls receiving IntelliBond hydroxy trace minerals compared to trace sulfate minerals.

Results, semen quality of bulls

Bulls supplemented with IntelliBond hydroxy trace minerals produced sperm with greater progressive motility and greater sperm concentration (see Figure 1).


It was concluded that IntelliBond Cu and Zn hydroxy trace minerals were more bioavailable and more readily stored in the liver compared with Cu and Zn sulfate trace meinerals. This resulted in an improvement of sperm quality of breeding bulls.


  1. Inchaisri, C., Hogeveen H., Vos, P.L., van der Weijden, G.C. and R. Jorritsma. (2010) Effect of milk yield characteristics, breed, and parity on success of the first insemination in Dutch dairy cows. J Dairy Sci. 93:5179–87.
  2. Chang, Y.M., Andersen-Ranberg, I.M., Heringstad, B., Gianola, D. and G. Klemetsdal. (2006). Bivariate analysis of number of services to conception and days open in Norwegian Red using a censored threshold-linear model. J Dairy Sci. 9:772–8.
  3. González-Recio, O., Pérez-Cabal, M.A., Alenda, R. (2004). Economic value of female fertility and its relationship with proft in Spanish dairy cattle. J Dairy Sci. 87:3053–61.
  4. Zezeski A. L., Van Emon M. L., Waterman R. C., Eik B. A., Heldt J. S., and T.W. Geary. (2016). Impacts of zinc, manganese, and copper source on mature bull trace mineral status and spermatozoa characteristics. Anim. Sci. 94 (Suppl.5): 6092

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