Chromium for Dairy Cattle

Trace Minerals

One of the most important micro minerals for dairy cattle is quite possibly the least utilized due to its recent energy into the market. In 2009, chromium propionate was permitted by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in U.S. cattle. Since then, research discoveries have indicated enormous nutritional and financial benefits for feedlots when chromium propionate is added to the diet. Minerals required by cattle, in microgram or milligram amounts per day,1 for optimal nutrition and performance are called trace minerals. The nine trace minerals considered essential for dairy cattle are:

  • Chromium (Cr)2
  • Cobalt (Co)
  • Copper (Cu)
  • Iodine (I)
  • Iron (Fe)
  • Manganese (Mn)
  • Molybdenum (Mo)
  • Selenium (Se)
  • Zinc (Zn)

Hierarchy of Needs

In a perfect world, dairy cattle would never be under stress. However, they are presented with daily challenges, which impact their health and performance. One of the most significant factors in animal health and performance is response to stress. Stress causes the body to redistribute nutrients to maintain and support life. The utilization of glucose by the animal's body is governed by specific hierarchical processes and is dependent on the type of stress the animal is facing.


Figure 1. What can a cow do with more energy?

Chromium Excretion in Response to Stress

The body stores chromium in very small levels (parts per billion).3 Escalating this issue is the rapid loss of chromium when the animal is placed under stress. After tissue cells complete their life cycle and are replaced, chromium stored within those tissues' cells does not return to the body and is lost through urinary excretion. Research conducted in humans has shown chromium is not stored in the body and is excreted during stress, "Urinary chromium excretion may increase 10-300 times in stressful situations or due to a diet rich in carbohydrates" (Table 1).4

Table 1. Chromium excretion in response to stress factors4,5,6

Basal State (no stress) 0.16 +/- 0.02
Acute Stress 0.30 +/- 0.07
Diet Rich in Carbohydrates 0.28 +/- 0.01
Lactation 0.37 +/- 0.02

When does a cow experience insulin resistance?

Historically, transition cows (-21 to 21 DIM) have been viewed as having insulin resistance. This is due to lower levels of circulating insulin as well as insulin sensitive tissues (e.g., adipose, muscle, etc.) becoming insulin resistant.7 However, new data suggests that insulin resistance can be a problem outside of transition (Figure 1). Insulin resistance has been shown to occur in high-producing dairy cows during the close up dry (-30 to calving), early lactation (0 to 100 DIM) and mid-lactation (101 to 200 DIM) stages of the lactation cycle.8


*A glucose tolerance test (GTT) was conducted; blood samples collected at 0, 1, 2, 3 and 4 hours post glucose infusion.

Figure 2. Insulin resistance in different physiological states of high producing dairy cows8

What can a dairy cow do with more energy?

  • Reduce negative energy balance
  • Improve immune function
  • Improve reproductive efficiency
  • Increase milk yield
  • Increase feed efficiency
  • Withstand effects of heat stress

What is chromium propionate?

Chromium propionate is an essential trace mineral that has been proven safe and effective as an animal feed additive for more than two decades. KemTRACE® Chromium, the chromium propionate product manufactured by Kemin Industries, has helped customers increase production and profitability in the swine, broiler, beef and dairy industries. KemTRACE Chromium, fed to millions of animals around the world since its introduction in 2000, is registered in more than 30 countries. 

  1. Insulin stimulates glucose uptake.9
  2. Readily available chromium propionate from KemTRACE Chromium is necessary to optimize the activation of the insulin receptor.
  3. Glucose uptake by the cell.
  4. The additional glucose will allow for more energy to be available for proper cell function.

For more information on the mode of action of chromium propionate, click here.

Chromium Benefits in Dairy

  • Chromium propionate is a highly bioavailable, organic source of chromium that optimizes how animals process glucose
  • Optimized glucose utilization can result in better animal maintenance, reproduction, growth and immunity
  • Repeatable, consistent response due to its effective mode of action at the molecular level
  • Kemin has conducted more than 50 U.S. chromium research trials
  • KemTRACE Chromium is the only chromium source permitted by the U.S. FDA for use in cattle
  • Efficient and easy to incorporate with premixes and other feed ingredients
  • Made in the U.S.A. and available in two product concentrations:
    • 0.04% - for use in complete diets
    • 0.4% - for use in a premix prior to inclusion in complete diets



1NRC. 2000. Nutrient Requirements of Beef Cattle (7th Ed.). National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.

2Up to Date Recommendations for Vitamins and Trace Minerals for Dairy Cows. Bill Weiss, Ohio State University. 2017 Southwest Nutrition Conference.

3Lloyd, K. E., V. Fellner, S. J. McLeod, R. S. Fry, K. Krafka, A. Lamptey, and J. W. Spears. 2010. Effects of supplementing dairy cows with chromium propionate on milk and tissue chromium concentrations. J. Dairy Sci. 93:4774-4790.

4Kozlovsky, A., P. B. Moser, S. Reiser, and R. A. Anderson. 1986. Effects of diets high in simple sugars on urinary chromium losses. Metabolism. 35:515-518.

5Anderson, et al. 1983. Effects of Cr supplementation on urinary Cr excretion of human subjects and correlation of Cr excretion with selected clinical parameters. Nutrition. 113:276-281.

6Anderson, R. A., M. M. Polansky, R. A. Bryden, E. E. Roginski, K. Y. Patterson, and D. Reamer. 1982. Effect of exercise (running) on serum glucose, insulin, glucagon and chromium excretion. Diabetes. 31:212-216.

7Kemin Internal Document, 17-00542.

8Chalmeh, et al. 2015. Acta Scientiae Veterinariae. 43:1255.

9Weekes, T. E. C. 1991. Hormonal control of glucose metabolism. Proceedings of the 7th International Symposium on Ruminant Physiology (ed. T. Tsuda, Y. Sasaki, and R. Kawashima). p.183. Academy Press, San Diego, CA.