Broken legs in heifers

Over the past few seasons, we have still seen cases of well grown heifers with broken legs. These usually occur with no source of trauma, and heifers are often just found in the paddock severely lame.  

Broken legs are often seen early in their first lactation, where calcium is mobilised from bone for lactation demand straight after calving, causing a transient osteoporosis. Most animals can cope with this, but if there has been underlying weakness from nutritional inadequacy when they were growing (mainly copper), normal forces can result in fractures.  

By the time the fractures occur it is too late to do much about the bone’s structure. The copper deficiency that occurred while they were growing affected the collagen formation and lifelong bone strength.  

The best way to prevent fractures is to keep on top of copper supplementation from weaning through to mating. 

Talk to your KeyVet if you would like to optimise your young stock’s trace mineral programme.  

Now is a great time to check trace minerals (ideally liver biopsy for copper) and give supplemental copper (copper boluses or injection). Winter is a time of low copper availability and as we are finishing facial eczema season, there will be no interaction with zinc. 


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