Skip to content

Milk Manager News January 2023 – Mineral Relationship to Foot Health

13 January 2023

Nutrition is a significant factor in healthy hoof horn growth. Some minerals, amino acids, and vitamins are involved in the keratinisation process, which ensures healthy horn growth and the structural binding of keratin proteins to aid hoof hardness.

Lameness is currently one of the most important and economically demanding diseases in dairy cattle. Important factors that influence the health of the limbs include nutrition, animal hygiene and genetic predispositions. Nutrition is one of the basic preventive factors affecting the quality and growth of the hoof horn, and the associated prevalence of hoof disease. The strength and structure of the hoof horn are affected by the composition of the feed ration (amino acids, minerals, vitamins, and toxic substances contaminating the feed ration).

Chelated Minerals

Chelated minerals are a way of presenting the essential trace minerals to the cow in a form that is more readily absorbed and utilised and not subject to the same interactions commonly experienced with inorganic elemental forms. This chelation process involves the chemical bonding of the trace mineral to an amino acid or small peptides.

Chelation refers to a bonding formed between a metal ion (mineral) and ligand (protein or amino acid). The biological role of chelated trace minerals is important. To be beneficial in dairy cows, the product should be stable in the rumen and digestive tract.


Zinc is crucial for hoof formation, structural, and regulatory functions in keratinisation. Playing a considerable role in the creation of structural keratin proteins, zinc is significant for maintaining the health and integrity of the skin due to its role in cell repair and replacement and it plays a crucial role in wound healing.


Copper is involved in protein synthesis, vitamin metabolism, connective tissue formation, and the immune system. Cattle that suffer from subclinical copper deficiency are more susceptible to hoof diseases, such as heel cracks, footrot and sole ulcers.


Selenium plays a role in protecting the structure of the horn from oxidative damage due to the binding of keratin proteins.  Herds with medium concentrations of selenium in the blood have higher milk production and better reproductive performance.


Calcium plays a significant role in keratinisation, and it is essential for the final stage of mature horn cell formation. Higher calcium concentrations in the hooves of dairy cows increases their hardness.


Biotin (a B vitamin) is essential to produce lipids in the intercellular mass, together with zinc and copper, and enables the growth of resistant horn tissue. It is also essential for normal keratinisation. Biotin is associated with a reduction in the incidence of lameness, specifically reducing the prevalence of white line disease. Biotin has been found to increase the rate of lesion healing in cows and it has a positive effect on the structure and quality of the new horn healing process. Feeding biotin at 20mg/cow/day has shown increased hoof quality and an increase in milk production (see graph below). Look at your dairy mineral in the vitamin section to see whether biotin is included. For a mineral fed at 150g/cow/day, biotin needs to be included at 133mg/kg to provide the recommended 20mg intake. Note that it can take up to six months to see an improvement in horn hardness and hoof health when feeding biotin due to the slow growth rate of new horn tissue.; 077361 31276

Sign up to the FAS newsletter

Receive updates on news, events and publications from Scotland’s Farm Advisory Service