Why Are Deer Deficient in Copper?

Copper is an essential part of deer nutrition. However, in some areas of the UK the ground has low levels of copper which can lead to deficiencies. It is important for farmers to recognise and prevent copper deficiencies because they can lead to many health problems. In adult deer, copper deficiency can cause swayback which is where the deer has a loss of coordination in the back legs, and in young deer a copper deficiency can lead to weak bones that are prone to fractures. Deficient deer are also more prone to infections and often have a
faded coat.
There are two causes of copper deficiency. The first is a primary deficiency, where there is not enough copper in the diet. This is normally due to the soil having low levels of copper. The second cause is a secondary deficiency, where there is sufficient copper in the diet but there are high levels of antagonists which prevent copper absorption. The most common antagonists are the elements molybdenum and sulphur which are found naturally in the soil.
Many farms chose to supplement copper. At Church Farm, we choose to supplement copper by giving our herds an oral bolus twice a year which releases the copper slowly over time, raising the deer’s copper levels for six to nine months. Supplements can also be given by injection. Certain feeds which have higher levels of copper can also be given, which helps keep the deer healthy.