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Minerals for sheep

Sheep need a variety of minerals for good health and reproduction

Wooly sheep happily grazing on lush pasture often seem the picture of health. But, forages alone don’t provide all the nutrition that sheep need for optimum health. There are specific nutrient requirements for sheep in various stages of productivity, and some trace minerals have to be supplemented.
 
Dan Morrical is an Extension sheep specialist at Iowa State University. He says trace minerals are especially critical under times of stress for the sheep.

"Stress things are like weaning, transportation and shipping, parasitism, lactation, cold stress," he says. "Reproduction, conception rates, fetal development, also if we don’t have enough micro minerals, then the response to vaccination is not as good, so we don’t have as effective of health program."

A trace mineral deficient in soils and pasture in many areas around the U.S. is selenium. Selenium deficiency can cause white muscle disease, where sheep lose control over leg muscles, lambs have poor suckling reflexes, and a host of other problems. Vitamin E should also be added with the selenium.

Iodine is another mineral lacking in the environment, but important in the diet to prevent goiter in lambs.

"One of the ways we can do it, we just put out free-choice iodized salt if you need to get a little more iodine into them," says Morrical. "Now the problem with that is, if they eat all of this and they don’t eat the other mineral, then they don’t get their selenium. So you’ve got to be careful."

Other desirable trace minerals include cobalt, manganese, iron, and possibly zinc. Minerals can either be mixed in with a grain ration or they can be fed using a mineral mix that contains salt.

Learn more about the specific vitamins and minerals required by sheep

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