Increased Selenium Dosage Boosts Growth and Immunity in Lambs
In a new study published in the Journal of Animal Science, Oregon State University (OSU) researchers show that maximum selenium levels permitted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 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.”
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 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 selenium doses, 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.
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.
– Finnsheep mature earlier than most other breeds
– Finnsheep ewes naturally cycle out of season
– Finnsheep ewes naturally produce larger litters (2-3/litter) than competitive breeds
without flushing for increased ovulation rates.
– Quality Finnsheep possess better wool traits than other breeds known for high
reproductive abilities allowing farmers to shear a premium, saleable wool clip.
– The single coated Finnsheep fleece possesses better crimp, luster and handle than all
other short-tailed breeds, allowing a much more diverse use of the wool by a larger
variety of markets.
– The docile, friendly temperament of the Finnsheep makes them one of the easiest
sheep breeds to safely work with (children, adults and seniors).
– The Finnsheep is a polled breed, providing additional safety for handlers, preventing
the sheep from getting their horns stuck in fencing and eliminating the risk of
infections or infestations of the horn.
– The naturally short tails of the Finnsheep require no docking
– The Finnsheep crosses well with most other breeds, improving wool, temperament
and production traits in the cross-bred flock
– Scrapie resistant genetics are available within the Finnsheep breed.
– Finnsheep ewes possess excellent mothering abilities
– Finnsheep ewes receiving proper nutrition produce an abundant supply of milk for
typical Finnsheep litters (2-3 lambs/litter).
– Finnsheep meats are leaner as Finnsheep deposit fat around their organs, not
throughout their muscle tissue, providing a healthier meat for the consumer.