Deficiency of selenium, vitamin E, or both can cause infertility in sheep. The image above shows resorption of a three week old embryo in an experimental animal (right) versus the control on the left. The embryo will be completely resorbed by day 35, resulting in a dry or barren ewe. If a lamb of a selenium deficient ewe is born alive, the lamb, despite good development, loses weight quickly after 3 weeks and is unthrifty. They avoid standing and usually separate themselves away from the flock. Cardiac arrhythmia can result after the slightest amount of exercise, and as the deficiency furthers the animal will suffer from anorexia and rapidly waste away. A vitamin E – selenium deficiency can also cause nutritional muscular dystrophy (the degeneration of muscle fibers, in the course of which calcium salts may be deposited among the muscle fibers), also known as white muscle disease or stiff lamb disease in sheep. Other symptoms include low fertility, abortion, stillbirth, scouring, decreased wool production, poor growth, and paralysis. Lambs should receive a sodium selenite-vitamin E shot at birth and again at about 30 days. Supplemental selenium could also be included in the diet at 0.3 ppm, taking care not to exceed 3 to 20 ppm, which can be toxic. The suggested maximum safe level of selenium for all species of animals is 2.0 ppm.

Selenium - vitamin E sheep embryo

Credit: W. J. Hartley, University of Sydney

Digital Credit: Melissa Foster

Publisher: American Institute of Nutrition

Rights: Image Gallery user terms

Description: Deficiency of selenium, vitamin E, or both can cause infertility in sheep. The image above shows resorption of a three week old embryo in an experimental animal (right) versus the control on the left. The embryo will be completely resorbed by day 35, resulting in a dry or barren ewe. If a lamb of a selenium deficient ewe is born alive, the lamb, despite good development, loses weight quickly after 3 weeks and is unthrifty. They avoid standing and usually separate themselves away from the flock. Cardiac arrhythmia can result after the slightest amount of exercise, and as the deficiency furthers the animal will suffer from anorexia and rapidly waste away. A vitamin E – selenium deficiency can also cause nutritional muscular dystrophy (the degeneration of muscle fibers, in the course of which calcium salts may be deposited among the muscle fibers), also known as white muscle disease or stiff lamb disease in sheep. Other symptoms include low fertility, abortion, stillbirth, scouring, decreased wool production, poor growth, and paralysis. Lambs should receive a sodium selenite-vitamin E shot at birth and again at about 30 days. Supplemental selenium could also be included in the diet at 0.3 ppm, taking care not to exceed 3 to 20 ppm, which can be toxic. The suggested maximum safe level of selenium for all species of animals is 2.0 ppm.

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