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Potential benefit of trace element supplementation of sheep on a low level of nutrition

MC Cronjé
JBJ van Ryssen
RJ Coertze


A study was conducted to test whether supplementation of trace elements would have any beneficial effect on year-old ewes receiving a submaintenance level of nutrition. The ewes were fed a poor quality hay. The control group received no supplementation (Treatment 1). A solution containing copper (Cu, 5 mg/d), selenium (Se, 1.6 mg/d) and zinc (Zn, 48.2 mg/d) was dosed twice a day to sheep in Treatment 2 while the ewes in Treatment 3 received a double dose of the three elements. Tissue analyses at the end of the 93-day experimental period suggested that the lambs in the control group suffered from a marginal Se deficiency, while the intake of the other elements seemed to be sufficient. Within treatments, weight changes varied tremendously. Therefore, even though differences were not significant, the unsupplemented control group lost weight, while the sheep in the other two treatments maintained their initial body weights during the study. Likewise, the control group tended to have a lower immune response against an injected foreign protein than the supplemented treatments, though differences were not significant. Plasma in the control group showed significantly higher activities of creatine phosphatase and aspartate transaminase than the supplemented groups. This suggested that the supplemented elements protected the body against tissue damage. Although it is traditionally considered that deficiencies in energy and protein, as first limiting nutrients with the highest priority in nutrition, should be overcome before any response to trace element supplementation could be expected, many of the micronutrients are involved in antioxidant activities in the body. Results from this study suggested that positive responses to micronutrient supplementation could be possible if the body is subjected to oxidative stress during submaintenance levels of energy and/or protein nutrition.

South African Journal of Animal Science Vol. 36(1) 2006: 20-27

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eISSN: 2221-4062
print ISSN: 0375-1589