Serum zinc and copper concentrations in relation to spontaneous abortion in cows: Implications for human fetal loss

T. W. Graham, Mark Thurmond, M. Eric Gershwin, J. P. Picanso, J. S. Garvey, Carl L Keen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of the status of dietary zinc and serum zinc and copper concentrations on the risk of fetal loss in 570 cows. Three herds received no supplements (herds 1, 3, 4), while cows in herd 2 received supplements of either 7 g zinc week-1 (n = 118), as zinc methionine, or a control diet containing methionine (n = 128). Serum zinc, copper and metallothionein concentrations were determined once a month throughout gestation. Logistic regression and survival analysis were used to examine for associations between risk of fetal loss and serum zinc, copper, copper:zinc, or metallothionein concentrations, supplement level, and maternal age at conception. The risk of fetal loss increased when both serum zinc decreased and copper concentrations increased (P < 0.0001; relative risk = 10.28, 95% confidence intervals = 4.69, 22.5). The attributable risk, for a decline in the zinc concentration by 10 μmol l-1 and an increase in the copper concentration by 5 μmol l-1 was 90.27%. Methionine-supplemented cows had a higher risk of fetal loss compared with zinc-methionine-supplemented cows (one-tailed P = 0.0375; relative risk = 2.98). Cows in herds 1, 3 and 4 had a higher risk for abortion than did zinc-methionine-supplemented cows in herd 2 (relative risk = 26.27, 95% confidence intervals = 2.31, 299.38; relative risk = 40.87, 95% confidence intervals = 3.50, 458.43; relative risk = 41.53, 95% confidence intervals = 3.77, 457.02, respectively). Our results suggest that inflammation and zinc nutriture may play an important role in fetal loss in dairy cows.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)253-262
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Reproduction and Fertility
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Physiology
  • Embryology
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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