How To Prevent Selenium Deficiency In Sheep

Selenium is a critical element for sheep health, so stay aware of pasture conditions and your animals' well-being to prevent selenium deficiency.

by Rachel Porter
PHOTO: Elsemargriet/Pixabay

Sheep owners need to understand causes, symptoms, prevention and treatment of selenium deficiency before any signs of the disease present. Selenium deficiency is a quick and fatal condition.

Selenium is an essential element for sheep, as it protects cells from damage. It also works as a powerhouse provider for the metabolic, reproductive and immune systems.

Deficiency can be caused by soil conditions, pasture crops and weather patterns. Sandy, acidic or granite-heavy soils predispose ruminant animals to selenium deficiencies. Clover pastures and heavily fertilized pastures often present problems, too, because they have such rapid growth. This robs the area of important trace minerals such as selenium.

Heavy rainfall (450 to 500+ mm per year) can also cause the issue.

If your area falls into any of these categories, you should take preventative measures and always stay on the lookout for common symptoms.

Read more: Minerals are important, but be careful when providing them to livestock.

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Symptoms of Selenium Deficiency

Symptoms of selenium deficiency can be non-specific and manifest as a number of other issues. Once you notice these behaviors and signs, always consider selenium deficiency:

  • Scouring
  • Lameness
  • Sudden death
  • Poor growth
  • Poor wool production
  • Infertility
  • Muscle stiffness 
  • Arching back

White muscle disease is a common disease associated with the deficiency. There are a few different types of the disease depending on the age of the lamb. All, however, are fatal when signs start to manifest.

Read more: Do your sheep receive the right amount of daily vitamins & minerals?

What You Should Do

Before treating your herd for selenium deficiency, you need to test blood samples through your vet. As with many mineral supplements, excessive amounts can also be toxic. 

Preventing selenium deficiency is the No. 1 way to protect your flock. Drenches, pellets, licks and pasture treatment are all very effective ways to address the threat of selenium deficiency. 

Being aware of and familiar with selenium deficiency causes, symptoms and treatment is a critical part of responsible sheep ownership. 

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