Sixty twin-bearing ewes were allocated to one of four dietary treatments investigating the effects of supplementary iodine or cobalt during late pregnancy on lamb serum immunoglobulin G (IgG), triiodothyronine (T3), thyroxine (T4) and vitamin E concentrations, and lamb IgG absorption efficiency. Ewes were offered grass silage ad libitum supplemented with 800 g per ewe per day of a 190 g/kg crude protein (CP) concentrate from day 126 of gestation until parturition plus one of the following supplements (n = 15 per treatment); no supplement (C); 26.6 mg iodine per day for final 3 weeks pre partum (I-3); 26.6 mg iodine/day for final week pre partum (I-1); 20 mg cobalt/day for final 3 weeks pre partum (Co-3). Lambs were blood sampled at 24 and 72 h post partum for serum IgG and vitamin E concentrations. Ten lambs from C and I-3 were blood sampled at 1 h post partum for serum IgG, vitamin E, T3 and T4 concentrations. There were no differences in serum IgG, vitamin E or T4 values (P > 0.05) at 1 h post partum between lambs born to the C and I-3 ewes. T3 levels were lower in I-3 compared with C progeny (P < 0.05). Supplemental iodine reduced colostral IgG absorption efficiency (P < 0.001) and lamb serum IgG concentrations at 24 and 72 h post partum (P < 0.001). Serum vitamin E concentration in I-3 and I-1 lambs was lower than in Co-3 lambs at 24 h post partum, while at 72 h post partum I-3, I-1 and Co-3 lambs had significantly lower concentrations than C lambs (P < 0.001). Supplementing the ewe’s diet with 26.6 mg/day of iodine for the final week of pregnancy reduced lamb serum IgG concentration at 24 and 72 h post partum. The lower total and free T3 values in the progeny of I-3-treated ewes suggest interference in the synthesis and metabolism of thyroid hormones when ewes receive excessive dietary iodine for 3 weeks immediately pre partum. Based on these findings, the indications are that the toxicity level for iodine in the diet of the pregnant ewe should be lowered to 20 mg per ewe per day, equivalent to 40% of its current level. The finding that high-level cobalt supplementation during the final 3 weeks of pregnancy will have a negative effect on serum vitamin E concentration at 72 h post partum is a new and significant finding and previously has not been reported in the literature.
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