Performance Trace Minerals Improve Embryonic Survival and Beef Cattle Reproduction


Source: Written by Dr. Jason Russell, Beef Nutritionist, Zinpro Corporation

Evaluating Zinpro’s historical data, one can see consistent results across multiple studies showing improvements in pregnancy and conception rates in cattle fed Zinpro Performance Minerals®. Trace minerals, particularly zinc, manganese, copper and selenium, are known to influence embryonic and fetal survival, growth and overall beef cattle reproduction.

In one study conducted at the University of Tennessee, researchers found that Availa®Plus helped produce more culturable oocytes and transferrable embryos when compared to inorganic trace minerals. In a different study on grazing Braford cows, Availa®4 improved pregnancy rates and reduced calving intervals compared to inorganic trace minerals.

What ultimately matters, however, is calves being born. The majority of total pregnancy losses occur in the first 30 to 60 days post-conception, with more than 70% of total pregnancy loss happening within the first 45 days of gestation. This makes early embryonic survival a crucial factor in overall beef cattle pregnancy retention. Anything producers can do to decrease embryonic loss during that time will have major impacts on overall beef cattle reproduction success.

Research Overview: Trace Minerals, Embryonic Survival and Beef Cattle Reproduction

In a recent study on 129 heifers at South Dakota State University, researchers found that performance trace minerals also play a role in embryonic survival in heifers.

The heifers included in the study were housed in the facilities for a few weeks, acclimating to their pens before the study began, and they were developed in low-stress conditions. About 30 days post-weaning, the heifers were randomly assigned to a diet with one of two trace mineral sources:

  • Inorganic: 20 ppm of manganese from manganese hydroxychloride, 36 ppm of zinc from zinc hydroxychloride, 12.5 ppm copper from basic copper chloride and 1.25 ppm of cobalt from cobalt carbonate.
  • Availa-4: 20 ppm of manganese from manganese amino acid complex, 36 ppm of zinc from zinc amino acid complex, 12.5 ppm of copper from copper amino acid complex and 1.25 ppm of cobalt from cobalt glucoheptonate.

At approximately 15 months old, heifers were synchronized and then artificially inseminated. The first pregnancy checks happened between days 17 and 21 using lymphocyte gene expression. Blood samples were collected to look for markers that indicated maternal recognition.

Between days 22 and 28, blood samples were checked for pregnancy-associated glycoproteins that indicate an attachment of the embryo to the uterine lining. Pregnancy was further confirmed by ultrasound on day 30 and day 60.

Performance Trace Minerals Improve Embryonic Survival in Replacement Heifers

Although pregnancy rates within each time point did not differ between diet groups at the first pregnancy check (days 17 to 21), by day 60 the heifers fed Availa-4 had decreased embryonic loss that translated to an embryonic survival rate 11% higher than the group fed inorganic sources of trace minerals. A review of existing literature suggests that heifers that are still pregnant on day 60 post-conception have a high likelihood of remaining pregnant all the way through calving. In other words, heifers fed Availa-4 during development retained early pregnancies at a higher rate and could be estimated to have a greater calving rate at the end of gestation.

Bar graph showing embryonic survival rates for beef heifers.

The results of this study indicate that even in low-stress, well-managed conditions, there is still room for significant improvement in beef cattle reproduction and embryonic survival by feeding Zinpro Performance Minerals. Moreover, evidence suggests that higher-stress environments further magnify the need for improving trace mineral nutrition, making Availa-4 the right choice for improving beef cattle reproduction in any operation.

This can result in a positive economic benefit for your beef cattle operation as well. Based on a price of $125/cwt for weaned calves and a 60-day breeding season, performance trace minerals can generate a return on investment (ROI) of 4:1. Higher priced calves will increase that ROI even more.

For more information on this study, download our Availa®4 Trace Mineral Supplementation Improves Early Embryonic Survival in Beef Replacement Heifers research summary. To learn more about including performance trace minerals like Availa-4 in your beef heifer nutrition program, contact your Zinpro representative today.


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