Make sure your cattle are ‘vaccine ready’ this winter…

Trace minerals have long been reported to be important for optimal immune function in livestock¹. They are essential for livestock to mount an immune response to a vaccine and therefore derive protection.

Supplementation of trace minerals has been shown to have a positive effect on immune function², with selenium (Se), copper (Cu) and Zinc (Zn) all vital in the production of antibodies³. Cattle with low or marginal trace mineral levels are said to be sub-clinically deficient and these cattle often have lowered immunity.

In Ireland, herd cases of trace element deficiency arise frequently. It was reported by Rogers and Murphy (2000)4 that within Irish grass silages 63% are low in Cu, 69% are very low in Se and 29% are low in Zn.

This means a lot of cattle are grazing pastures that have inadequate levels of trace minerals, meaning the cattle coming off these pastures may be deficient. This may result in a poor response to vaccination and consequently increased incidence of disease in the herd.

Furthermore, cattle fed on grass silage or forages that are meeting mineral requirements may not eat an adequate level of forage to maintain mineral levels.

Stressors on calves such as vaccination, weaning and transport can exacerbate trace mineral imbalances which could lead to a reduced response to vaccines. This stress can be compounded by a decrease in feed intake for up to three weeks after cattle arrive at the feedlot5.

Farmers need a fast and effective way to enhance their animals’ mineral status at vaccination, to ensure vaccine response. Research from leading veterinary universities from around the world have demonstrated the potential benefits of strategic mineral injections at vaccination time.

For more information, just click here 

Injectable supplementation

Working in Taranaki, New Zealand, Irish livestock vet David Casserly from Lanesborough, Co. Longford, has seen the benefits of injectable supplementation for several years in local herds there.

“Injectable supplementation at high demand periods is very popular with farmers here. This strategy has become a key tool to reducing clinical disease and improving herd immunity; the results speak for themselves,” commented David.

Daily oral trace minerals are essential for maintenance in cattle but at high demand periods like weaning or vaccination, intake can fall in response to stress meaning clinical or sub-clinical deficiency can develop beyond what a well formulated diet can provide.

Trace minerals have poor intestinal absorption regardless of the source6. This poor oral absorption is further deteriorated by antagonists such as sulphur (S), molybdenum (Mo), calcium (Ca) and iron (Fe) or binding to undigested feed particles7.

Strategic injectable trace mineral supplementation bypasses the harsh rumen environment, rapidly raising circulating mineral levels in cattle within eight to 10 hours and after 24-hour mineral concentrations in the storage organs like the liver are at raised concentrations8.

Several studies have demonstrated the impact of injectable trace mineral supplementation on cattle health and performance.

Trace minerals such as Zn, manganese (Mn), Cu and Se are essential for optimal immune function, health status and growth in cattle, particularly in highly stressed cattle or at the critical phases in the production cycle, such as pre-calving, pre-breeding, weaning and vaccination.

Studies from around the world have demonstrated the effects of strategic supplementation, and the results of these studies reinforce how supplementation could benefit cattle by enhancing immune responses to vaccines3,9,10.

In a 2017 study at the University of Georgia, an injectable trace mineral, administered concurrently with bacterin vaccination, improved the immune response to M. haemolytica and P. multocida, two of the major causes of respiratory disease in cattle.

Figure 1 (below) shows that the ITM-supplemented group had enhanced M. haemolytica antibody titres compared to the un-supplemented group, suggesting that ITMs are a valuable tool for enhancing calves’ responses to bovine respiratory disease vaccination11.

Figure 1: Mannheimia haemolytica antibody titres following vaccination in cattle supplemented with injectable trace minerals and those without. Image source: Bittar et al., 2017.

In a study published earlier this year, calves vaccinated and treated with an injectable trace mineral supplement showed higher antibody titres for BVD virus type 1 and 2 compared to calves that were just vaccinated or unvaccinated12.

Figure 2: BVD antibody titres in cattle treated with injectable trace minerals at the time of vaccination, compared with those that only received the vaccination and unvaccinated cattle. Image source: Bittar et al., 2020.

Ask your vet how injectable trace mineral supplementation could improve herd health and immunity in your cattle.

Further information

For more information, just click here 


  1. Underwood E.J., Suttle N.F. (1999). The Mineral Nutrition of Livestock, 3rd edition, CABI Publishing, Wallingford.
  2. Galyean M. L., Perino L. J. and Duff G. C. (1999). Interaction of Cattle Health/Immunity and Nutrition. Journal of Animal Science. 77:1120–1134.
  3. Palomares, R.A., Moliere, F., Havenga, L.J., Woolums, A.R., Norton, N.A., Credille, B., Clifton, S.J., Sigmund, A.B., Barber, C.E., Berger, M.L., Clark, M.J., Fratto, M.A. and Hurley, D.J. (2016). Effect of injectable trace minerals on the humoral and cell-mediated immune responses to Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus, Bovine Herpes Virus 1 and Bovine Respiratory Syncytial Virus following administration of a modified-live virus vaccine in dairy calves. Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology. 178(1):88-98.
  4. Rogers, P.A.M. and Murphy, R. (2000). Levels of Dry Matter, Major Elements (calcium, magnesium, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and sulphur) and Trace Elements (cobalt, copper, iodine, manganese, molybdenum, selenium and zinc) in Irish Grass, Silage and Hay.
  5. Hutcheson, D.P. (1980). Observations on receiving new cattle. Texas Beef Conference, Amarillo, Texas.
  6. Spears, J. W. (1996). Organic trace minerals in ruminant nutrition. Animal Feed Science Technology. 58:151–163.
  7. Spears, J. W. (2003). Trace mineral bioavailability in ruminants. Journal of Nutrition. 133:1506S–1509S.
  8. Pogge, D., Richter, E., Drewnoski, M.E. and Hansen S.L. (2012). Mineral concentrations of plasma and liver following injection with a trace mineral complex differ among Angus and Simmental cattle. Journal of Animal Science. 90:2692–2698.
  9. Arthington, J.D. and Havenga, L.J. (2012). Effect of injectable trace minerals on the humoral immune response to multivalent vaccine administration in beef calves. Journal of Animal Science. 90(6):1966-1971.
  10. Arthington, J.D., Moriel, P., Martins, P.G., Lamb, G.C. and Havenga, L.J. (2014). Effects of trace mineral injections on measures of performance and trace mineral status of pre- and post-weaned beef calves. Journal of Animal Science. 92:6:2630-2640.
  11. Bittar, J.H.J., Hurley, D.J., Woolums, A.R., Norton, N.A., Barber, C.E., Moliere, F., Havenga, L.J., and Palomares, R.A. (2017). Effects of injectable trace minerals on the immune response to Mannheimia haemolytica and Pasteurella multocida following vaccination of dairy calves with a commercial attenuated-live bacterin vaccine. The Professional Animal Scientist 34:59–66.
    12. Bittar, J.H.J., Palomares, R.A., Hurley, D.J., Hoyos-Jaramillo, A., Rodriguez, A., Stoskute, A., Hamrick, B., Norton, N., Adkins, M., Saliki, J.T., Sanchez, S. and Lauber, K. (2020). Immune response and onset of protection from Bovine viral diarrhea virus 2 infection induced by modified-live virus vaccination concurrent with injectable trace minerals administration in newly received beef calves. Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology. 225: 110055.