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  • Writer's pictureACT Ltd.


Updated: Jul 21, 2020

By planning ahead & making an informed decision about influencing your ‘Lambing percentages’ you could make a huge financial difference: 170% increased to 180% is 10 more lambs per 100 ewes = 10 x £90.00* = £900.00*

*Approximately as an example.

We know that forage in the UK is variable in its essential trace element supply (see the 4 year pie chart for reference) and we know that addressing this deficiency will always pay you back with interest – ‘’Rectify a deficiency for a more fertile animal’’

Wessex Animal Health offer a unique range of ewe & lamb boluses to help rectify the trace element deficiencies listed below – The Actotrace Ewe bolus is a high cobalt supplement with Selenium, Iodine & Vitamin E (Copper version also available) and is generally given to ewes/rams/ewe & ram lambs over 50kgs and they supply these essential trace elements for up to 6 months.

Younger replacement ewe & ram lambs under 50kg may only require the Actotrace Lamb bolus which again contains high levels of cobalt, selenium, iodine, zinc & Vitamin B1

Copper, cobalt, selenium and iodine are essential trace elements required by cattle and sheep in England and Wales

  • Deficiencies of trace elements can cause poor production. However, there are other common causes of low productivity such as parasite infestations or energy deficiency

  • Deficiencies of trace elements can cause poor production. However, there are other common causes of low productivity such as parasite infestations or energy deficiency

    • Keywords: Trace element deficiency, Trace element supplementation, Copper, Cobalt, Selenium, Iodine, Forage analysis, Blood trace element tests, Tissue trace element tests.


  • Copper is an essential part of a number of different enzymes which allow the body to function. The amount of copper that ruminants absorb from the diet is very variable.

  • ‘Swayback’ in lambs occurs when a lack of copper results in damage to the spinal cord

  • Copper absorption varies considerably in different breeds. Texels absorb copper very efficiently to the extent that they can be put at risk of copper toxicity, whereas Scottish Blackface are less efficient and more likely to suffer copper deficiency

  • Copper deficiency can be diagnosed from copper analysis of blood samples or liver tissue. The latter is considered the gold standard and gives a better indication of an animal’s copper status.


  • Cobalt is an essential component of vitamin B12 which is associated with energy & protein metabolism. In ruminants this vitamin is produced by rumen micro-organisms which require a regular supply of cobalt in the animal’s diet.

  • Cobalt deficiency results in ill-thrift accompanied by poor appetite which will impact on energy availability and will reduce conception rates. Cobalt is also connected to the production of red blood cells


  • Selenium acts with vitamin E to protect tissues against oxidation and the breakdown of cell membranes. It is also important for immune function. The selenium requirements of stock are related to the vitamin E content of the diet. For diets low in vitamin E the requirements for selenium are increased and vice versa.

  • Lack of selenium can also cause poor reproductive performance. In females, it can cause early embryonic death, resulting in poor scanning figures.

  • Sulphur, increasingly used in fertilisers for grass silage, can interfere with selenium uptake by plants and over-use can exacerbate a marginal deficiency of selenium.

  • *DATA* Blood samples taken from ewes in May showed selenium levels to be satisfactory, but by September levels for most were below the target minimum. Liver samples taken from finished lambs in September confirmed marginal selenium deficiency in some animals. Following these results the decision was taken to supplement all the breeding ewes with a multi-trace element bolus in late September. They were blood sampled around a month later. The results showed cobalt and selenium had increased three to four fold


  • Iodine is a component of the important hormone thyroxine which controls the animals’ energy metabolism. It is also essential for foetal growth and development. Iodine deficiency is typically associated with an enlarged thyroid, commonly known as goitre

  • Typical signs are late abortions, presenting as still-born or weak lambs. Neonatal mortality is markedly increased

  • Pregnant and lactating animals have a much higher iodine requirement compared to dry stock, and pasture is often unable to fully satisfy requirements on its own. Some forage crops such as brassicas contain substances called goitrogens, which interfere with thyroxine production or utilisation. Animals grazing brassica crops have an increased requirement for iodine compared with those grazing grass.


  • Zinc is involved in many biochemical processes and a deficiency affects a wide range of body functions. Deterioration of hair or wool texture, stiff joints and thick, scaly, cracked skin are accompanied or preceded by poor growth. Reproductive function is also impaired.

Vitamin B1:

  • Is critical for glucose metabolism. Glucose is a vital source of energy to the brain, so when vitamin B1 deficiency occurs, and glucose cannot be metabolised, this can result in a type of brain degeneration: CCN, PEM (Polioencephalomalacia)

  • Often seen when younger animals have grazed bracken/fern.

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