Evaluating the effect of calcium, magnesium and sodium supplementation of Merino ewes on their lambs' growth

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Our study aimed to investigate responses to supplementation of calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg) and sodium (Na) to lactating ewes and lambs grazing barley forage from lamb marking to weaning. A 10-ha paddock sown to barley was subdivided into eight plots as four replicates of two treatments. Merino ewes (n = 104) with lambs at foot were stratified to the eight plots (13 ewes and 21 lambs/plot) based on number of lambs (twin or single) and ewes' weight. Supplemented groups had access to mineral supplements (30 g/ewe/day) supplying 12 g/ewe/day ground limestone, 12 g/ewe/day Causmag® and 6 g/ewe/day coarse salt in a ratio of 2: 2: 1 by weight (as fed) from day 0 (a day before lamb marking) after sample collection. Control groups were not supplemented with minerals. Blood, milk and urine samples from ewes and blood from lambs were collected at different time points, namely, a day prior to lamb marking (day 0), 14 days after the commencement of study (day 14), and 28 days after the commencement of study (day 28). Weight of the lambs was also recorded at each time point. We found that the concentration of the forage minerals (Ca, Mg and potassium (K)) was lower on day 28 than on day 0 (P < 0.025). Liveweight gain was greater in the first 14 days compared with the second weight gain period (P < 0.001). The interaction of time and treatment was significant for liveweight (P < 0.001). Due to the improvement in weight gain of supplemented lambs, we recommend that mineral supplementation during late lactation is beneficial considering the low cost of minerals, even though the mineral content of the forage was not deficient.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)391-396
Number of pages6
JournalAustralian Veterinary Journal
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023


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