Selenium (Se), an element on the periodic table and a mineral found in soil, rocks, and water, is an essential trace element for ruminants like cattle and sheep. While it isn’t required in high amounts, without it, cows can suffer from deficiency symptoms and health disorders. In today’s blog, we’ll unpack what role selenium plays in the cow’s health, how to recognize a deficiency, and more information on ensuring your herd has the right amount of selenium. Visit our blog for more on cattle nutrition.
Health Benefits of Selenium – A healthy level of selenium in a cow’s diet is required to ensure proper growth and reproduction. Selenium works with enzymes and proteins in animal tissues to protect the cell walls and membranes. It’s found in the soil, taken up by plants at varying efficiency due to rainfall, fertilizer application, and species. Once consumed, selenium is stored for a short period of time in the liver, so continual steady consumption of this mineral is best.
Selenium Deficiency – Cows suffering from a lack of selenium will produce harmful free radicals in their bodies. These cause muscular dystrophy to the heart and limbs, resulting in weakness and loss of muscle mass. Lack of selenium also results in a weakened immune system, causing a herd to be more susceptible to other illnesses. This most commonly occurs in young calves and calving cows.
Treatment and Prevention – Animals can be tested for selenium deficiency by taking blood samples. While injections and lick blocks are available as treatment, the most cost-effective method of prevention and restoration is by applying selenium fertilizer to pastures known to be lacking in selenium from soil samples. Be careful; too much selenium can result in toxicity. For more on cattle management, visit our website.
At Dark Hammock Legacy Ranch, proper cattle care is at the top of our priority list. For more on how we do things here, visit our website to schedule an agritour.