Making the case for liver sampling: Why liver biopsies are better for detecting copper deficiencies
By Cat Barr, PhD, DABT
Copper deficiency has historically been problematic in Texas cattle herds with red-haired, black cows being the least of the issue. Production losses factor in when low copper levels lead to decreased disease resistance, decreased conception rates, and undermined calf viability.
Recently, an article was published in BEEFVet that describes the need for liver biopsies rather than serum samples to determine mineral deficiencies, particularly in the case of copper. Bovine serum copper levels are tightly homeostatically controlled and copper deficiency may not be reflected in serum until liver levels are severely low.
Dr. Jeffrey Hall is the veterinary toxicologist at Utah State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and has been researching mineral levels in many species for years, with a strong focus on cattle and bison. His lab also runs the inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) analysis of the samples and is comfortable with running mineral profiles on as little as 50 mg liver tissue – 2 Tru-Cut biopsies from one animal. Embedded in the BEEFVet article is a link to Dr. Hall’s video demonstration of taking liver biopsies using a Tru-Cut instrument.
The Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL) has recently brought on line an ICP-MS, enabling us to provide a liver biopsy mineral panel to clients. The sample requirement is a minimum of 50 mg liver – at least 2 Tru-Cut biopsies from a single animal. Clients should transfer biopsies into a sealed container (no fluid, no saline, no formalin) and ship overnight on cold packs for the best results.
TVMDL runs liver mineral panels twice a week, with a turnaround time of 1 to 5 working days. Clients can request analysis for a single mineral (copper, for example) for $30. However, for the same amount of time and tissue, clients may request the Mineral Panel for $40 and get results for 11 metals: cobalt, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, zinc, arsenic, cadmium, lead, and thallium.
For additional information on this, or any TVMDL testing, please access our website at tvmdl.tamu.edu or call 1.888.646.5623.