Trace minerals are essential to an animal for normal health and productivity. They act as the keys that assist in the utilisation of energy and protein within the body. As such they are important for normal growth, meat, wool and milk production, fertility and immunity. Trace minerals are required constantly but at certain times such as during the growth of a young animal, pregnancy and lactation or when experiencing increased stress for whatever reason, the animal’s demand can increase.
Deficiencies can present either as overt clinical disease or, more commonly, subclinically with less obvious signs but still significant productivity losses. If clinical disease is present this is often the “tip of the iceberg” and many more animals are deficient and not showing obvious signs.
Deficiencies of selenium cobalt and copper are common in ruminants in many parts of Australia. We will cover cobalt deficiency in the next section.
Importance of Vitamin B12
Cobalt is a trace element which is utilised by rumen microbes to synthesise Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient for carbohydrate metabolism and protein synthesis and is important for production of red blood cells and nervous system function.
Areas where cobalt deficiency occurs include acidic, sandy or volcanic soils, irrigated and improved pasture, high rainfall regions (>450mm per year), weathered, leached or intensively cropped land and areas of heavy liming of pasture. In parts of Australia, cobalt deficiency is called “Coast Disease” because it is more prevalent along some coastal areas. Like selenium, pasture cobalt content is diluted during periods of rapid pasture growth.