Trace-elements are molecules that are essential to animal health

Trace elements

Focus on these essential minerals

The importance of trace elements

Trace elements are essential to life. They are present in animals, tissues, biological environments (blood, lymph) and organs. They are required in the development of many enzymes, vitamins and hormones. They are key constituents of the living substance and have a role in the immune system mechanisms and cell protection.

Trace elements help with:

  • production of enzymes
  • constitution of vitamins and hormones
  • immune defence system
  • oxidative stress control

Why do animals develop deficiencies?



  • Most soils are deficient in Selenium.
  • Some areas have specific deficiencies in Copper, Zinc, Manganese (plateaus and limestone plains) and Cobalt. Mountainous areas are typically poor in iodine.
  • Certain crop practices prevent plants from assimilating trace elements.




  • Production (milk, etc.) has been increased due to significant progress in animal genetic.
  • Feed intakes have become more selective, and even restrictive.




  • End of gestation
  • Reproduction
  • Drying up


What problems may occur in the event of deficiencies?

While not very distinctive, the clinical signs associated with trace element deficiencies are nonetheless numerous. They can affect the health of the animals, their milk or meat production, and their reproduction.

Selenium (Se)

Deficiency can lead to myopathies (nutritional musculare dystrophy) in young ruminants and to fertility disorders due to a lack of prostaglandins (retained foetal membrane, abnormal uterine involution) in adults. Both the mother and foetus’ immune systems may be weakened.

Cobalt (Co)
Deficiency results in anaemia, loss of appetite, allotriophagy; consequently growth may become deficient, ultimately leading to cachexia.
Iodine (I)

Deficiency may cause hypothyroidism (goitre) potentially leading to dysmetabolic disorders with different severity rates (bulimia or loss of appetite, hypothermia), respiratory distress, poor growth, weakened immunity, dermatitis and abortions.

Iron (Fe)

Deficiency causes iron-deficiency anaemia (loss of appetite and poor growth).

Copper (Cu)
Deficiency may cause cardiac disorders, lameness, barrenness, loss of appetite and allotriophagy.
Manganese (Mn)
Deficiency leads to leg defects in young ruminants (bow legs and knuckling), metabolic disorders and infertility in adults.
Zinc (Zn)
Deficiency is responsible for barrenness, leg defects, various kinds of dermatitis, weakened immunity.

What are the consequences and solutions?

Subclinical deficiencies are increasing significantly, mostly due to a lack of intake by suckling cows, or a poor assimilation by dairy cows. These have a large economic and societal impact on farms.


The difficulty for the veterinarian is to make farmers aware of the economic impact of deficiencies, and especially of subclinical deficiencies. Delayed growth in young animals, repeat breeding or silent heats, longer intervals between calvings, decreased milk quality, and poor transfer of passive immunity are all consequences, leading to economic losses. Although difficult to quantify, they are real and significant.



Deficiencies affect animals’ immune system. They are then more sensitive to pathologies and viruses requiring medical treatment.
Good quality supplementation is one of the approaches that enable a reduction in the use of antibiotics to maintain animals’ health.



Animals need trace elements in small quantities on a long term basis and during precise phases in their production cycle. Vétalis’ boluses provide a regular, controlled supply in the short, medium and long term.


The trace elements Observatory

Subclinical deficiencies are significantly increasing, mostly due to a lack of intake by suckling cows, or a poor assimilation by dairy cows. These have a large economic and societal impact on farms.

Biochemical analyses provide information on blood status.

  • The Vendée Environment and Food Laboratory (LEAV 85)
  • The Nantes National Veterinary School (ENVN) and its Hormone Assays Laboratory (LDH).


  • Facilitating the integration of trace elements deficiencies into farm audits by veterinarians.
  • Targeting correction and enabling the establishment of suitable prevention methods.
  • Learning more about the current state of regional deficiencies in order to work on the development of appropriate solutions for cattle breeders.