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Increased selenium dosage boosts growth and immunity in lambs

June 26, 2013

Ewes given organic selenium supplements gave birth to lambs with a 15 percent higher chance of survival. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum)

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Sheep given supplements of organic selenium above United States government recommendations showed improved growth, weight and immunity, according to new research at Oregon State University.
In a new study published in the Journal of Animal Science, OSU researchers show that maximum selenium levels permitted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration may be too low for sheep to reach optimum growth and health.
Selenium is essential for cellular function in animals and aids development. Large selenium doses can be toxic, but too-low levels can impair growth and compromise the immune system.
"When sheep don't grow to their potential or have weak immune systems, it can be a sign of insufficient selenium," said Gerd Bobe, co-author of the study and an OSU professor. "Our research shows higher levels of selenium can result in healthier animals that grow bigger and that can improve returns at the marketplace for farmers and ranchers."
Normally, grazing animals eat ample amounts of selenium from grass and other plants grown in soils naturally containing the element. Yet the soils of the Pacific Northwest are low in selenium, and the region's livestock often need it added to their diets to avoid health problems.
A challenge is that the range between selenium deficiency and selenium toxicity can be narrow; current FDA regulations limit the amount of dietary selenium supplementation for animals grazing on selenium-scare soils - up to 0.7 mg per sheep per day or 3 mg per beef cattle per day.
In OSU's experiments, pregnant ewes were given selenium doses up to five times higher than the FDA's allowed level - an amount of supplementation researchers determined to be not harmful to sheep. The element is carried into the bodies of offspring, helping young animals during development.
At the highest amount, ewes gave birth to lambs that grew to be 4.3 pounds heavier than average after 60 days. Furthermore, survival was 15 percent higher in lambs receiving the highest amount of organic selenium supplementation. As farmers look to sell sheep at five to six months old, weight and health metrics are keys to profitability.
Selenium also boosted an important gauge of the lambs' immune systems. Levels of immunoglobulin G, a protein that defends against pathogens and is essential for lamb survival, were elevated by 48 percent in Polypay ewes and 23 percent in all ewes given five times maximum FDA-permitted levels of selenium.
The changes were measured in colostrum of ewes - a mother's first milk that is rich in immunoglobulins and vital for building the immune system and protecting against pathogens.
OSU has a long legacy of selenium research. Half a century ago, OSU animal scientist Jim Oldfield was the first to identify severe selenium deficiency as a reason for several deadly diseases in animals, including cardiomyopathy and white muscle disease.
A new generation of OSU research is attempting to determine how much selenium and in what form is best for optimal growth and health of sheep and cattle.
Consumers may also benefit from eating meat from selenium-supplemented animals, as its one of the major sources of the element in the U.S. diet. Human observational studies suggest that regions with low selenium intake have a greater risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases, Bobe said.
"Consuming selenium-enriched foods may be a viable alternative for getting extra selenium," said Bobe, an expert in human and animal nutrition. "Plus, selenium-enriched animal products, including meat, are sold in other countries at a premium price."
OSU's selenium research is a collaboration between Bobe, Gene Pirelli and Wayne Mosher in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Jean Hall, Charles Estill and Jorge Vanegas in the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Author: Daniel Robison
Source: Gerd Bobe

 

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It is too bad they don't say exactly what the organic selenium was. Interesting article. I have always felt that we can give more copper and selenium then the suggested dosing.
 

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I know we can give more copper (rod form) because I give way more then recommended lol but I'm still chicken on the selenium :(. But my kids this year were just crap and I was thinking just the other day it might be selenium. As for organic selenium I know my lady friend gets loose salt like stuff with added selenium in it but said she can't find it in California only Oregon. I'll see her this weekend and ask her exactly what it is.
 

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I have noticed the last two years our kids were a lot smaller than normal..This year we began selnium Vit E gel monthly prior to breeding and will continue through pregrancy..we hope to see less retained placenta, pulled kids and hoepfully faster growth rate. We also do copper every 3 months until we see improvement then we will dose 2 times a year and as needed..We sold most our sheep but retained four ewes, so I will so Selnium on them as well : ) But our lambs were faster growing tis past season then last..???
Interesting article...
 

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Yes, selenium is crucial and deficiency causes all kinds of issues. Afterbirth hanging to long, kids born weak or with crooked legs, stunted growth are seen a lot with this deficiency. Plus, some Doe's may not conceive.

If some breeders with deficient goats, don't give a Bo-se shot, prior to kidding. Give Bo-se, to your goats, when these issues are seen ASAP at proper dosage. Do not overdose.
 

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I have always had my ewes on selenium and for a couple years we changed our hay and had problems lambing. Now all our girls does and ewes get selenium shots at the same time they get their yearly cd&t shot. All the babies get one shortly after being born and we feed minerals containing higher amounts of selenium. The past few years we haven't had a lot of problems kidding or lambing (just one ewe who had to lamb breech)
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Since I started giving BoSe injections and Cu to all my animals every 3 months I have had to worm only once. I also make sure a doe has had BoSe within a few weeks of kidding. I give kids .2ml BoSe the day they are born. I keep loose minerals out also. Others report one of the worst years for worms in a long time. My animals have thrived on pasture alone. My bucks on dry lot look outstanding. My bucks came into rut a couple of weeks ago and I have covered two does to get show kids to sell for OYE prospects.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
"In OSU's experiments, pregnant ewes were given selenium doses up to five times higher than the FDA's allowed level - an amount of supplementation researchers determined to be not harmful to sheep."

That makes me feel better with what I have been doing.
 

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I give more than the amount suggested for selenium. A boost of selenium before breeding has been shown on many farms to increase goat litter sizes. It worked on mine without flushing.
 
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