Research Article: Consequences of hazardous dietary calcium deficiency for fattening bulls

Date Published: December 8, 2006

Publisher: BioMed Central

Author(s): Teppo Heinola, Elias Jukola, Päivi Näkki, Antti Sukura.


Deficient mineral supplementation on a feedlot farm resulted in severe clinical manifestations in fattening bulls. Animals mistakenly received only 60–70% of the recommended calcium intake, while simultaneously receiving twice the amount of phosphorus recommended. Thus, the dietary Ca/P ratio was severely distorted. After approximately six months on such a diet, four fattening bulls were euthanized because of severe lameness and 15% of other animals on the farm were having clinical leg problems. Veterinary consultation revealed the mistake in mineral supplementation.

Fattening bulls were divided into three groups depending on the time of their arrival to the farm. This enabled the effect of mineral imbalance at different growth phases to be examined. After slaughtering, the bones of both front and hind limbs were macroscopically evaluated.

Over 80% of the animals with a calcium-deficient diet had at least one severe osteoarthritic lesion. The economic impact of the calcium deficiency was statistically significant.

Calcium deficiency with distorted Ca/P ratio yielded a severe outbreak of osteoarthritis in fattening bulls. Calcium deficiency caused a more serious lesions in age group 5–12 months than age group 12–18 months. Besides causing obvious economic losses osteoarthritis is also a welfare issue for feedlot animals.

Partial Text

Lameness of fattening dairy and meat bulls is an animal welfare issue that also has significant economic consequences. Affected animals often suffer from osteoarthritis (OA) [1]. OA is a degenerative joint disease affecting the articular-epiphyseal cartilage complex. The aetiopathogenesis in growing bulls is variable, including trauma and osteochondrosis (OC) [1]. OC is a failure of endochondral ossification [2,3].

The scapula was the bone most often affected (75%, Table 3). All OA lesions in scapulas were located in the glenoidal cavity, on its weight-bearing surface; 83% of the lesions were classified as grade 1 (Table 3).

The faulty, heavily distorted dietary Ca/P ratio yielded a severe outbreak of OA in fattening bulls. Over 80% of the animals with a calcium-deficient diet had at least one severe OA lesion. However, OA lesions were prevalent also in animals with balanced diets, 30% of these animals having lesions.




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