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Giving your Cows Stronger Hooves through Optimal Trace Mineral Supplementation

Summary points:

  • Lameness is a costly, prevalent issue. Average costs per incidence of lameness are $420 to $1,055 USD (Shepley et al., 2021).
  • Due to its unique chemical structure, MINTREX® delivers more copper, zinc or manganese to the site of absorption, allowing for more mineral to be absorbed and subsequently be utilized for productive purposes by the cow.
  • In Zhao et al., 2015, 5 out of 12 cows fed MINTREX® bis-chelated trace minerals showed reduced lameness compared to cows fed sulfates. In addition, there was a 15% hoof hardness increase in cows fed MINTREX®.

Recent findings shared at the Annual Dairy Science Meetings by researchers from the University of Minnesota highlighted the challenges to managing lameness on farm. This research identified that lameness is a complex management issue that necessitates all stakeholders for the farm to communicate and collaborate (Wynands et al., 2021).

Occurrences of lameness differ across the globe:

  • 32% observed within farm in United Kingdom (Griffiths et al., 2018).
  • 25% on organic farms in France (Sjöström et al., 2018).
  • 31% in China (Chapinal et al., 2014).
  • 41% in southern Brazil (Bran et al., 2019).

With the prevalence of lameness being well characterized, the impact on cow health and well-being is obvious, but the economic impact of lameness is often difficult to fully characterize.

Lameness ranks third among the principal economic issues in dairy production today (Enting et al., 1997). The economic impact of lameness includes direct costs as well as indirect costs as shown below (Ózsvári, 2017). Together these costs can result in a loss in gross profit from $420 to $1,055 USD ($536 to $1,345 CAD) per incidence of lameness (Shepley et al., 2021). Solutions to reduce not only the economic impact to the farm, but also the welfare concerns, associated with lameness are crucial to resolving the complex management issue that is lameness.


Impact of Trace Mineral Nutrition on Lameness

In Zhao et al., 2015, a total of 48 cows were utilized. Twenty-four of these cows were structurally sound, while the other 24 were considered lame. These were split evenly into 2 groups. Over 180 days, 1 group was fed MINTREX® bis-chelated trace minerals and the other group was fed sulfates.

During the evaluation period, cows were monitored for change in gait score and hoof hardness. Focusing on the lame cows, at the initiation of the nutritional intervention, all cows exhibited a gait score of 3 or greater. Following 180 days of including the nutritional intervention, the gait score of 5 out of 12 cows supplemented with MINTREX® exhibited a gait score that had decreased to 2 or below while only 1 cow supplemented with sulfate trace minerals exhibited a gait score that had decreased (Table 1).


When hoof hardness was evaluated, we saw that both structurally sound and lame cows supplemented with MINTREX® exhibited 15% increased hoof hardness after 180 days when hoof hardness on day 0 averaged 28.8 durometer unit. In contrast, those supplemented with sulfates saw no significant increase (Figure 1).


The biology behind these benefits observed with MINTREX® bis-chelated trace minerals is linked to the role that copper, manganese and zinc have in the biology of the hoof. More specifically the 3 minerals are involved in keratinization, the process that results in healthy horn formation. Keratinization is needed as it allows for the turnover of keratin, a protein that is the major component of the protective matrix of hooves (Fraser and MacRae, 1980).


Copper plays a role in thiol oxidase, an enzyme found in keratinizing horn cells (Lean et al., 2013). Thiol oxidase allows for integrity and rigidity of the keratin cell matrix within the hoof, resulting in a strong hoof (Tomilson et al., 2004).


Just like copper, zinc also plays a role in keratinization through the action of enzymes. Zinc is an activator of Zn metalloenzymes that aid in keratinocyte differentiation while playing a role in the final development of keratinocytes through regulating calmodulin (Lean et al., 2013). Zinc is also involved in structural protein formation in keratin (Tomilson et al., 2004).


The role manganese has in hooves is more indirect, but still involves enzymes, through activating enzymes that supply cellular energy to keratinocytes allowing for good quality horn tissue to be produced (Tomilson et al., 2004).

With the unique roles copper, zinc and manganese have in supporting strong hoof tissue, the previously mentioned benefits realized with MINTREX® demonstrate greater bioavailability than sulfates (Zhao et al., 2015). Due to their unique chemical structure, MINTREX® delivers more copper, zinc or manganese to the site of absorption, allowing for more mineral to be absorbed and subsequently be utilized for productive purposes by the cow.

Heather A. Tucker, PhD
Ruminant Research Scientist, Novus International, Inc.


Adams, A., J. Lombard, C. Fossler, I. Roman-Muniz, and C. Kopral. 2016. Associations between housing and management practices and the prevalence of lameness, hock lesions, and thin cows on US dairy operations. J. Dairy Sci. 100: 2119-2136. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2016-11517

Bran, J.A., J.H.C. Costa, M.A.G. von Keyserlingk, and M.J. Hötzel. 2019. Factors associated with lameness prevalence in lactating cows housed in freestall and compost-bedded pack dairy farms in southern Brazil. Prev. Vet. Med. 172: 1-9. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.prevetmed.2019.104773

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Lean, I.J., C.T. Westwood, H.M. Golder, and J.J. Vermunt. 2013. Impact of nutrition on lameness and claw health in cattle. Livest. Sci. 156: 71-87. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.livsci.2013.06.006

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Zhao, X.J., Z.P. Li, J.H. Wang, X.M. Xing, Z.Y. Wang, L. Wang, and Z.H. Wang. 2015. Effects of chelated Zn/Cu/Mn on redox status, immune responses and hoof health in lactating Holstein cows. J. Vet. Sci. 16: 439-446. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4142/jvs.2015.16.4.439

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