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Assessment of selenium and vitamin E deficiencies in dairy herds and clinical disease in calves
  1. J. Žust, DVM, PhD1,
  2. B. Hrovatin, DVM, MSc1 and
  3. B. Šimundić, DVM, MSc1
  1. 1 Institute for Hygiene and Pathology of Animal Nutrition, Veterinary Faculty Ljubljana, Gerbičeva 60, SLOV-61000 Ljubljana, Slovenia


Because of the very low concentrations of selenium in the dry matter of grass, grass silage, hay and maize silage Slovenian dairy herds need to be supplemented with selenium. Selenium in the form of mineral and feed mixtures maintained adequate mean (sd) blood serum selenium concentrations of 43.9 (27.6) to 65.3 (18.5) μg/litre in lactating cows, but in late lactation and in the dry period when only mineral mixtures were used, about 60 per cent of the cows had marginal serum selenium concentrations, mainly because of the low intake of the mineral supplement. In 18 herds which were either unsupplemented or irregularly supplemented with selenium, the mean (sd) concentrations in blood serum were 13.7 (5.5) μg/litre and 17.4 (9.2) μg/litre, respectively, for selenium and 2.98 (2.72) mg/litre and 1.62 (1.73) mg/litre for vitamin E, indicating that under extensive farming conditions in Slovenia the lack of both micronutrients may be responsible for nutritional muscular dystrophy in calves. Among 37 clinical cases, cardiorespiratory signs predominated in 25 of the calves and skeletal myopathy was dominant in 12. A very low mean serum selenium concentration [9.7 (7.2) μg/litre] and typically high activities of aspartate aminotransferase (AST) [1125 (373) U/litre] and creatine kinase (CK) [9169 (3681) U/litre) were observed for the myocardial form of the disease, and 2797 (550) U/litre and 22,650 (13,500) U/litre were observed for the skeletal form of the disease. A highly significant (P<0.0001) difference in the selenium concentration of liver dry matter between the regularly supplemented [402 (207) μg/kg] and irregularly supplemented [173 (69) μg/kg] herds was observed. If a minimum value of 300 μg/kg of liver dry matter is accepted as the criterion for the determination of adequate selenium status, 93 per cent of the samples from the irregularly supplemented herds were selenium deficient. A similar proportion was estimated to be selenium deficient when the criterion was taken to be 30 μg selenium/litre of blood serum

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