Trace element supplementation of beef cattle and sheep

Project number:                    74103

Lead contractor:                   ADAS UK Ltd

Partners:                                  HCC

Start & end date:                   01 March 2010 to 31 December 2010

Actual end date:                    April 2014


The Problem:

Many farmers use large amounts of mineral supplements as an insurance against mineral and trace element deficiencies but in many situations these are fed with no sound technical evidence of a problem – the belt and braces approach‘. In order to focus supplements where they are really needed and to improve the efficiency of beef and sheep production farmers should be encouraged to investigate the mineral status of their flock and to supplement only when needed.


Project Aims:

  • To understand the best methods to determine if trace element deficiencies exist on farms
  • To use four beef and sheep producers in England to act as case studies
  • To produce a trace element budget for the case study farms
  • To produce a technical booklet that could be converted into a manual



To review current recommendations on trace element allowances by looking at the available literature and to make a thorough review of mineral status and supplementation on 6 farms across the country (4 in England and 2 in Wales).  Forage, blood and liver samples will be collected from ewes, lambs, cows, calves and finished cattle.  All supplementation will be recorded, including feeds, so a trace element budget can be produced.  Guidelines will be generated for all the farms involved.



The case study farms can be used for events to communicate the project findings, and as part of stories in the agricultural press.  The technical report can be used as the basis for a manual on trace elements.


Planned activity:

The report and the case studies are being used to generate a BRP+ booklet, which should be available in May 2011.  We have used the findings at several winter evening meetings, and they will be used throughout the summer of 2011, including at the Uplands Conference on the 30th of June in Penrith.