Ten yearling red deer stags (Cervus elaphus) and ten yearling Coopworth wether sheep were housed in individual pens and offered ryegrass-white clover silage, containing 9–10 mg Cu, 1·4–1·7 mg Mo and 2·4 g S/kg D.M., in amounts close to maintenance energy requirement. For six animals of each species the diet was enhanced with 4·8 mg Mo and 3 g S/kg D.M. Liver biopsy samples were obtained during weeks 1, 6 and 12. The animals were then re-randomized and five of each species offered the basal diet and the remainder the basal diet supplemented with 4 mg Cu/kg D.M. Liver biopsy samples were obtained after a further 4½ weeks. Plasma samples for estimation of total and trichloroacetic acid-soluble Cu were taken weekly.
The mean liver Cu concentration in sheep was 11-fold greater than in deer. Both diets induced liver Cu depletion, though there was a trend for a greater rate of depletion on the Mo- and S-enhanced silage. The rate of depletion (mg Cu/kg liver D.M./day) was 7-fold greater in sheep than in deer, although it was not possible to determine whether this reflected a species-, as opposed to a Cu status-induced effect. In both species highly significant linear relationships were observed between initial liver Cu concentration and rate of liver Cu depletion. This was interpreted to indicate that endogenous loss was directly proportional to liver Cu content in both species. Individual estimates for the minimum rate of endogenous loss of Cu (μg/kg W/day) ranged from 0·2 to 2·71, mean 1·43, and from 2·83 to 14·75, mean 8·35 in deer and sheep, respectively.
During repletion the rate of increase of liver Cu in supplemented groups tended to be greater in sheep than in deer and calculated minimum values for availability of Cu were 0·061 and 0·037, respectively.
Liver Cu concentrations of less than 20 mg/kg D.M. were maintained in deer for several weeks without apparent symptoms of deficiency.