Copper

Copper (Cu) is essential for several copper-dependent enzymes involved in the synthesis and maintenance of elastic connective tissue.

Function:

Copper (Cu) is essential for several copper-dependent enzymes involved in the synthesis and maintenance of elastic connective tissue, mobilization of iron stores primarily for blood synthesis, preservation of the integrity of mitochondria (important for energy production), central nervous system function, melanin synthesis, detoxification of superoxide (an important antioxidant) and hemoglobin function.

Sources:

The copper concentration of common feedstuffs ranges widely from approximately 1 mg/kg for corn to 80 mg/kg for cane molasses. Salts such as cupric chloride, cupric sulphate and cupric carbonate are effective supplemental copper sources.

Daily requirements (NRC, 2007):

- 10 mg/kg dietary dry matter (DM) - 0.2 to 0.25 mg/kg body weight, depending on the exercise

- Max: 250 mg/kg ration.

Deficiency:

Reported are the following: Osteochondrosis, osteodysgenesis, lamness, epiphysitis, limb deformities. Fatal rupture of the uterine artery in aged, parturient mares.

Excess (>800 mg/kg dietary DM):

Although horses are relatively tolerant of high dietary copper concentrations: inhibition of collagen synthesis, a loss of bone density, acute haemolytic anaemia and icterus, lethargy, hepatic and renal damage, gastrointestinal disturbances, death.

When problems may occur?

Pregnant mare and foals have increased copper requirements and it is recommended to supplement them with 20 mg Cu/kg dry matter. Absorption of Cu declines with age. Very low apparent Cu absorption coefficients (3-8%) were reported in horses fed with lucerne hay, tall fescue or Caucasian blue stem grass hay. In case of too important zinc, calcium and iron intakes, copper absorption will be reduced and leads to deficiency.

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