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There are a variety of trace elements required by sheep and cattle in New Zealand. Most commonly these will include selenium, cobalt, copper and iodine.
- Selenium deficiency is most commonly seen in younger sheep and cattle through poor growth or production rates, although care needs to be taken when with diagnosis as poor pasture, internal parasites, or other deficiences can show a similar effect. Selenium deficiency can result in illthift, white muscle disease, impaired reproduction, reduced immunity and reduced milk production.
- Cobalt deficiency is seen in soil and pasture and essential vitamin B12 is generated by rumen microbes from cobalt when it is consumed. There are varying degrees of cobalt deficiency throughout New Zealand and these generally require some additional supplementation via either land or animals.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is characterised by loss of appetite, wasting, anaemia, poor fertility rates, failure to thrive (particularly in young animals), and even death in severe cases unless the deficiency is corrected. It affects mainly sheep and cattle with younger stocker being more sensitive, though it can occur in all ruminant animals and does affect goats and deer.
- Copper deficiency is caused when animals can not uptake enough copper from grazing. Copper is obtained by the animal from grazing pasture which has obtained its copper from the soil. Copper deficiency is mainly caused from either low soil levels or interference from other factors which could include age, pasture type, animal breed, molybdenum and iron. In general cattle and deer are more susceptible than sheep. Copper deficiency can result in poor growth rates, diarrhoea, bone defects, swayback, coat colour changes, milk production and poor reproductive performance.
- Iodine deficiency is occasionally a cause of goitre in calves. Iodine is used for the synthesis of thyroid hormones which are important for energy metabolism, animal development and reproduction. Feeding goiterogenic crops such as those from the brassica family can interfere with thyroid function. Adequate selenium is also required for correct thyroid function.