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J Anim Sci. 2012 Dec;90(12):4536-43. doi: 10.2527/jas.2011-5019. Epub 2012 Jul 5.

Organic and inorganic selenium: III. Ewe and progeny performance.

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  • 1Department of Animal and Rangeland Sciences, College of Agriculture, Oregon State University, Corvallis 97331, USA.


Selenium is an essential micronutrient in sheep, and deficiency can limit lamb growth and survival. To evaluate how different chemical forms of Se administered to mature ewes at comparative dosages affect ewe and progeny performance, 240 ewes were divided into 8 treatment groups (n = 30 each) and drenched weekly with no Se; at the maximum FDA-allowed concentration with inorganic Na-selenite or organic Se-yeast (4.9 mg Se/wk); with inorganic Na-selenate (8.95 mg Se/wk); or with inorganic Na-selenite and organic Se-yeast at supranutritional concentrations (14.7 and 24.5 mg Se/wk, respectively). The treatment period started approximately 2 wk before breeding and lasted for 62.5 wk. Ewes of the no-Se and Se-yeast groups continued treatments for another 21 to 24 wk through a second lambing season. Chemical form or dosage of Se did not affect ewe reproductive performance based on proportion of ewes lambing in each treatment group, or number of lambs born, nursed, or weaned per ewe (all P > 0.10). Ewes receiving the highest supplementation rate of Se-yeast at 24.5 mg Se/wk had higher BCS (scale 1 to 5) at the end of yr 1 (2.95 vs. 2.66; P = 0.05) than ewes receiving Se-yeast at 4.9 mg Se/wk. Performance was better in lambs from ewes receiving Se-yeast at 24.5 mg Se/wk than in lambs from ewes receiving Se-yeast at 4.9 mg Se/wk or no Se. In yr 1, lambs from ewes receiving Se-yeast at 24.5 vs. 4.9 mg Se/wk were heavier at 120 d of age (37.0 vs. 34.2 kg; P = 0.05). In yr 2, lambs from ewes receiving Se-yeast at 24.5 mg Se/wk were or tended to be heavier at 60 d of age than lambs from ewes receiving no Se (21.2 vs. 19.0 kg; P = 0.04) or lambs from ewes receiving Se-yeast at 4.9 mg Se/wk (19.2 kg; P = 0.09). This effect was more pronounced in ewes raising multiple lambs. We conclude that supranutritional supplementation of ewes with Se-yeast at 24.5 mg Se/wk improves lamb growth and ewe health without negatively affecting reproductive performance.

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