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Can Vet J. 2006 Sep;47(9):902-6.

Copper deficiency in yaks on pasture in western China.

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State Key Laboratory of Arid Agroecology, Lanzhou University, The People's Republic of China.


The clinical signs of a disorder in yaks (Bos grunniens), known locally as "swayback ailment," in the Qing Hai-Tibetan Plateau are described. The purpose of this study is to investigate the possibility that swayback ailment is iron (Fe)-induced copper (Cu) deficiency. The mean concentrations of Cu in soil and forage from affected areas and unaffected areas are similar and within the normal ranges. The mean concentrations of Cu in blood and hair from the affected yaks was significantly lower (P < 0.01) than that in unaffected yaks. The mean concentrations of Fe in soil and forage were significantly higher (P < 0.01) in affected than in unaffected areas. Affected yaks showed a hypochromic microcytic anemia and a low level of ceruloplasmin. Oral administration of copper sulphate prevented and cured the disease. We conclude that "swayback disorder" of yaks is caused by secondary Cu deficiency, mainly due to the high Fe content in forage.

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