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The effects of offering mineral blocks to ewes pre-mating and in late pregnancy on block intake, pregnant ewe performance and immunoglobulin status of the progeny

  • T. F. Crosby (a1), T. M. Boland (a1), P. O. Brophy (a1), P. J. Quinn (a1), J. J. Callan (a1) and D. Joyce (a1)...

Two experiments were carried out to quantify the intake of mineral blocks by ewes in group- and individually fed situations, and to examine the effects of mineral block intake on food and water intake, colostrum production and lambs' immunoglobulin G (IgG) absorption when ewes are individually housed and offered maize or grass silage with a concentrate supplement. In experiment 1, mineral blocks were offered to 359 ewes either when grazing at mating time (no. = 200) or, when indoors in the last 4 or 7 weeks of pregnancy, the latter as either twin-bearing ewes that were group-fed (no. = 18) or individually fed (no. = 27) or single-bearing ewes that were group-fed (no. = 114). Block intake was measured on a weekly basis. In experiment 2,a2X2 X 2 factorial design was used to compare the effects of forage (grass or maize silage), restricted mineral block access and added minerals/vitamins in the concentrate on food and water intakes, colostrum production and immunoglobulin absorption by the lamb using 64 twin- bearing ewes that were individually housed. Grass silage and maize silage were offered ad libitum, concentrates were offered at a flat rate of 400 g per head per day. Mineral blocks were offered to ewes for 3 h/day. Following lambing, the ewes were hand milked at 1,10 and 18 h post partum. Colostrum samples were assayed for immunoglobulin G (IgG) content. Lambs were blood sampled at 24 h old to determine serum IgG value. In experiment 1, mean daily mineral block intake per ewe was lowest at mating time (19 g) and highest when ewes were individually housed (194 g). In experiment 2, intakes of dry matter(DM) and energy were higher (F < 0.05) in the maize silage treatments. Similarly, when ewes had access to mineral blocks they had higher (P < 0.05) intakes of DM, energy and protein in addition to having a higher water intake (2.24 v. 0.771 per ewe per day; s.e. 0.139; P < 0.01). The mean total colostrum yield to 18 h post lambing at 1734 ±98.0 ml was unaffected by any of the treatments. When ewes had access to mineral blocks their lambs had lower (6.8 v. 18.8; s.e. 1.48; P < 0.01) serum IgG values and the efficiency of IgG absorption from the colostrum into the blood stream was reduced (0.097 v. 0.247; s.e. 0.0214; P < 0.01). In conclusion, the data show that there is wide variation in mineral block intake in different situations and that intake of some minerals can exceed toxic values. Additionally, when individually fed pregnant ewes have access to blocks for just 3 h/day, there is a significant increase in water intake and a dramatic reduction in lamb serum IgG concentration and in the efficiency of absorption of colostral IgG into the blood. We suggest that while mineral blocks can confer advantages in specific situations, there is the need to revisit their formulation and to further research the mode of action responsible for the compromised IgG absorption.

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Animal Science
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