14 June 2002

Injectable copper shortage is a worry

UNAVAILABILITY of injectable copper is causing difficulties for vets treating deficient cattle in high molybdenum teart areas.

Somerset vet Peter Edmonson say the only licensed copper injectable for use in cattle has been off the market since last July. "The advantage of injecting copper is that it goes directly into the bloodstream. In high molybdenum areas, diet copper is soaked up by molybdenum in the rumen. So, very high levels of copper must be fed for sufficient to be absorbed by cattle."

Although diet copper supplementation offers a partial solution, for herds in teart areas which have soils high in molybdenum, a combination of in-feed copper and the injectable form works best, says Mr Edmonson. "Cows in these herds may need three copper injections: One at drying off, one at calving and a third 60 days after calving."

Danielle Simeone, technical assistant at animal health company Schering Plough, which makes the copper injectable Coprin, says manufacturing problems are the reason for the products unavailability. But the company hopes to begin making the product again later this year.

In teart areas, producers are using copper boluses, particularly copper oxide needles, as an alternative to Coprin, says senior vet investigation officer Tim Jones of VLA Langford, Bristol. "So far these appear to be doing the job. But Coprin plus 2000ppm of diet copper is a tried and tested treatment method and it would be good to have the product back."

Copper deficiency has become a widespread problem in dairy cattle in teart areas over recent months, adds Mr Jones. "I have seen some of the lowest blood levels of copper in the last 20 years. But this may also be because producers are reducing additional supplementation to cut costs."

But both vets warn producers in other areas to be careful when supplementing copper, as toxicity can be a problem. Before recommending supplementation, Mr Edmonson investigates what supplements are already being used on the farm. "Producers could be using a combination of in feed supplementation, boluses and high copper minerals. Blood testing six youngstock and six dry cows will provide an idea of the herds copper status and check supplementation is not excessive." &#42