THERE is a widespread belief among veterinary surgeons and farmers that cattle have become more susceptible to trace element deficiencies over the years as productivity has increased, with some even thinking that dietary recommendations should be routinely exceeded. Specialists in trace element nutrition have tended to take the opposite view, revising many standards downwards. Which group is right? In truth, probably neither, as the answers lie in the complex relationship between production and trace element function. What is clear is that current estimates of the need for trace elements, based on straightforward 'input must equal output' models, are oversimplistic. A safer approach, as discussed in this article, is to look to the animal for evidence that its needs are not being met and, where necessary, apply appropriate intervention to redress any identified imbalances.
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