A meta-analysis of the effects of dietary copper, molybdenum, and sulfur on plasma and liver copper, weight gain, and feed conversion in growing-finishing cattle

J Anim Sci. 2013 Dec;91(12):5714-23. doi: 10.2527/jas.2013-6195.


The minerals Cu, Mo, and S are essential for metabolic functions related to cattle health and performance. The interaction between Cu, Mo, and S can determine the utilization of each mineral, in particular Cu, by ruminants. A meta-analysis was performed to evaluate the effects of dietary Cu, Mo, and S and their interactions on plasma and liver Cu, ADG, and G:F in growing-finishing cattle. Data were collated from 12 published studies. The model with the best fit to data indicated plasma Cu was positively affected by dietary Cu (P < 0.01) and negatively affected by both dietary Mo (P < 0.01) and S (P < 0.01). Another model also indicated that plasma Cu concentration is positively related to Cu:Mo ratio in the diet (P < 0.01). Dietary Cu had a positive effect on liver Cu (P < 0.01), whereas Mo showed a negative effect (P < 0.05), and no effect of dietary S on liver Cu was observed (P > 0.05). Average daily gain was negatively affected by dietary Mo (P < 0.05) and S (P < 0.01) and positively affected by Cu:Mo ratio (P < 0.01), likely because an increased Cu:Mo ratio minimizes the antagonistic effect of Mo on Cu. The feed conversion ratio was negatively affected by Mo (P < 0.05) and S (P < 0.01), whereas effects of the Cu:Mo ratio and dietary Cu were not significant (P > 0.05). The interaction between S and Mo affected (P < 0.01) G:F, which was likely related to a positive response with the proper balance between these minerals. In conclusion, dietary Cu, Mo, and S and the Cu:Mo ratio caused changes in plasma Cu. Only dietary Mo and S led to a negative response in the performance of growing-finishing cattle, whereas the diet Cu:Mo ratio has a linear and quadratic effect on ADG. Nutritionists and producers need to consider with caution the supplementation of growing-finishing cattle diets with Mo and S because of their potentially adverse effects on animal performance. An appropriate Cu:Mo ratio is desirable to minimize the effects of an impaired supply of Mo on Cu metabolism and ADG.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed / analysis
  • Animal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Animals
  • Body Composition / drug effects
  • Cattle / blood*
  • Cattle / growth & development
  • Cattle / metabolism
  • Copper / blood*
  • Copper / chemistry
  • Copper / pharmacology*
  • Diet / veterinary
  • Liver / chemistry*
  • Molybdenum / chemistry
  • Molybdenum / pharmacology*
  • Sulfur / chemistry
  • Sulfur / pharmacology*
  • Weight Gain / drug effects


  • Sulfur
  • Copper
  • Molybdenum