Environmental responsibilities of livestock feeding using trace mineral supplements

Daniel Brugger, Wilhelm M. Windisch

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Trace elements are essential dietary components for livestock species. However, they also exhibit a strong toxic potential. Therefore, their fluxes through the animal organism are tightly regulated by a complex molecular machinery that controls the rate of absorption from the gut lumen as well as the amount of excretion via faeces, urine and products (e.g., milk) in order to maintain an internal equilibrium. When supplemented in doses above the gross requirement trace elements accumulate in urine and faeces and, hence, manure. Thereby, trace element emissions represent a potential threat to the environment. This fact is of particular importance in regard to the widely distributed feeding practice of pharmacological zinc and copper doses for the purpose of performance enhancement. Adverse environmental effects have been described, like impairment of plant production, accumulation in edible animal products and the water supply chain as well as the correlation between increased trace element loads and antimicrobial resistance. In the light of discussions about reducing the allowed upper limits for trace element loads in feed and manure from livestock production in the European Union excessive dosing needs to be critically reconsidered. Moreover, the precision in trace element feeding has to be increased in order to avoid unnecessary supplementation and, thereby, heavy metal emissions from livestock production.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-118
Number of pages6
JournalAnimal Nutrition
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2015


  • Accumulation
  • Environment
  • Homeostasis
  • Livestock
  • Pharmacological supplementation
  • Trace element


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