OSU Researchers Restructure Selenium Use: Health and Growth Rates of Calves Increased

In new research published in the open access journal PLoS 1, OSU researchers demonstrate that using Sodium-selenate fertilizers in Alfalfa fields is an efficient, relative to injectable or feed-additive forms of Selenium (Se), means of maintaining optimum and supranutritional Whole Blood (WB) levels of Se in livestock.

calvesThe study evaluated how maturing beef calves, during their transition from weaning pens to feedlots, benefited from a seven week preconditioning diet of Se fortified alfalfa hay.

The transition period between weaning pens and a feedlot is, according to the researchers, “one of the most stressful times for beef calves.” They say that because Se plays a vital role in immune responses in cattle, calves need diets richer in Se during the transition.

However, because Oregon soil is naturally low in Se, maturing calves tend not to get adequate Se from just natural grazing and foraging.

To mitigate this, ranchers have, historically, relied on injectables and feed additives to ensure that their cattle have the appropriate WB concentration of Se.

This research suggests that an alternative means of increasing  Se reserves in maturing calves is to use sodium-selenate fertilizers to fortify alfalfa hay. The results from the study showed that this fortified alfalfa represents an, “effective management strategy for optimizing growth and health in weaned beef calves.”

Because other researchers have already observed the increased bioavailability of plant fixed Se versus additive forms and the connection between WB-Se levels and growth rates, the researchers concluded that ranchers could benefit from using Se- fortified Alfalfa, in lieu of other methods, as a management strategy.

By William Tatum