Importance of Zinc

June 13, 2017

Recently, I have been asked a number of times about feeding biotin to cows to help reduce lameness. After consulting Moorepark, experts in the US and New Zealand I feel the jury is still out on this, for grass based cows.

Incidence of lameness can result in serious economic losses to dairy producers due to decreases in milk yield and fertility, as well as increased treatment costs and culling rates. Its estimated in Ireland incidence of lameness can cost €300 each.

90% of lameness is in the foot, with 80% in the hind limbs; and 80% of these cases in the outer claw. Formation of claw horn is a complex process which essentially depends on a balanced diet and a sufficient supply of vitamins, minerals and trace elements. Hoof horn takes about 2-3 months to reach the bottom of the hoof. So, any issues from poor mineralisation will only be seen 2-3 months later.

Zinc, in general, is the most important trace element involved with growth rates and healing of hooves. It is important for keratin production and hoof growth. Hoof hardness will be improved by feeding high levels of zinc.

In practice we have been getting excellent results feeding high levels of Zinc to herds. We have seen a reduction in lameness cases right across the board once zinc supplementation is continued right across the year as hoof growth continues all year round.

Unfortunately as can be seen in the graph below there is a deficit in the levels of zinc forage can supply and what the cow needs.