Knowing the trace element status of your flock at least two months prior to tupping is essential to ensure you have time to correct any problems in time for breeding.
By working with your vet and nutritionist, you can determine which trace elements, if any, require supplementation to ensure a successful breeding season.
Key trace elements to consider:
This is one of the most important
trace elements for reproduction. It is important for:
• Sperm production in rams
• Enzymes involved with oestrus and the onset of puberty
• White and red blood cell formation and in bone, collagen, and pigment.
Signs of deficiency include:
• A compromised immune system
• Reproductive failure
• Ill thrift and poor fleeces
• Swayback in lambs - this is when the lamb’s nervous system is not formed correctly due to inadequate copper supply in
mid-pregnancy. This is often irreversible.
Copper should never be supplemented without first establishing there is a need. Excess can result in copper toxicity which can prove fatal. Bluefaced Leicesters, Texels and continental breeds are particularly susceptible.
While copper deficiency can be caused by insufficient copper in the diet, it is also possible sheep are ingesting adequate levels of copper, but high levels of other elements in the diet, such as molybdenum, sulphur or iron, are blocking the sheep from absorbing copper from the diet.
Cobalt is required by the rumen microbes to produce vitamin B12 which is important to thrive and for fertility. Cobalt is also critical for growth in lambs. Ruminants have little capacity to store cobalt, so it must be continuously supplied. Therefore, a slow-release, continuous supply form of supplementation, such as a bolus, is more appropriate for the management of cobalt deficiency.
This is vital for muscle function and deficiency can result in white muscle disease. Deficiency is also a cause of impaired fertility, depressed growth, poor wool quality and reduced immunity.
Like cobalt, iodine is a trace element that ruminants have little capacity to store, and a continuous supply must be made available. Where a deficiency has been identified and requires supplementation, a form that supplies trace elements at a controlled and constant rate, over long periods, should be considered.
Iodine deficiency can lead to:
• Poor growth/weight loss and poor fertility
• Abortion or still-born lambs
• Slow suckling and poor growth in lambs born alive to iodine-deficient dams. These lambs frequently have markedly enlarged thyroid glands, ie ‘goitre.’
Zinc is essential to the function of around 300 enzymes that are involved in protein synthesis and metabolism. Deficiency causes poor fertility in ewes, poor sperm quality in tups and is associated with abortion, foetal mummification, lower birth weights and prolonged labour.