Guidance Note for Supplementing Copper to Bovines

This leaflet aims to outline some practical advice on the use of copper in feed for bovines on farms in the UK.

You are encouraged to discuss this guidance with your veterinary and nutritional advisers.

Copper is an essential trace element for animals. Copper toxicity resulting from over-supplementation is becoming a more common condition in cattle, especially dairy cows. While there may be several sources of copper in the diet that individually are not in excess, together they can cause copper toxicity. This has prompted an industry-led working group to investigate the causes of copper toxicity in cattle. There is some uncertainty regarding the incidence of copper over-supplementation in dairy cattle. Nevertheless, the aim of the guidance note is to provide clear and practical advice about copper supplementation and associated legislative requirements.

Maximum Permitted Level (MPL) of copper in cattle feed
EU Regulation 1831/2003 on additives in animal feed sets the MPL for copper in cattle feed at 35 mg/kg (ppm) at 88% dry matter (DM), which equates to 40 mg/kg on a dry matter basis. Supplementation at levels greater than this can only be undertaken after a full risk assessment and by written prescription by the veterinary surgeon responsible for the animals. The MPL is based on the complete feed and should include inputs from complementary feedingstuffs such as boluses or licks, but does not include input from water.