Jump to content
BC Boards



Recommended Posts

a Mass sheep die off in Sumner, IA. The complainant, who is a grower/breeder of sheep and a veterinarian, has claimed over 500 sheep have died and over 1000 ewes aborted during October and November 2007. The complainant blames the problem on a lack of iodine in a custom mineral/vitamin mix manufactured by Hunter Nutrition in Indiana. The investigation is being performed jointly with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) since they have a detailed knowledge of this complainant and the farm's operations. Additionally, samples of the custom mix and necropsy results are purportedly available and will be collected. The investigation is ongoing.


Someone just sent this to me today.

A couple days ago I was talking with another friend about minerals and triplets. It was the first time I had thought about minerals and the effect of lambing. My friend is experiencing triplets this year for the first time in a while. I on the other had am having singles and twins. I wasn't thinking anything about it as most of my singles were born to first time lambers, young ones at that. Older expereinced ewes are having their reg. twins.

I keep minerals down all the time, so does the friend experiencing triplets. I have neighbor who is probably feeding the same minerals that I am and she is expereincing preemies and abortions more than the norm.


One of the things we were comparing is the cost of minerals. I'm paying $21 per bag, friend in MO is paying $12. Naturally (not good) I was thinking the type I'm buying are of better quality. Now I wonder if it's just local pricing.


What if any have you guys heard about minerals effecting birthing rates?



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Minerals effect everything about sheep, so it's not unreasonable to think that they would effect prolificacy. But I think that there are lots of other causes that would have to be ruled out before you could lay the blame on the minerals, the largest single one being nutrition -- by which I mean groceries, and the next in line being heredity. If you looked at two flocks that were genetically and nutritionally identical, but had different mineral programs, you might see some effects.


All that said, here's what I can remember about minerals and sheep reproduction. Iodine in particular will have a major impact on reproductive efficiency, and in lamb vigor.


Not enough salt means not enough milk. Milk must be isotonic (have the same salt level) as the lambs' blood to be digested. If sodium is lacking in the diet, milk production drops to until sodium levels are correct. Better to have a little milk that you can digest than a lot that you can't.


Calcium deficiency leads to milk fever and problems with uterine involution such as retained placenta. It can also be linked to increased prolapses of both the vagina and uterus.


Selenium deficiency can also lead to retained placentas, uterine and vaginal prolapses, and can lead to white muscle disease in the lambs. Selenium is also of particular importance to the immune system; a deficiency could compromise the ewe's immune system leaving it more vulnerable to attack by abortion (and other) diseases.


Copper deficiency can lead to a condition called "swayback," in which the lambs have poor control over their hindquarters and a bow in their spines. (Yes, sheep do need some copper, although too much can kill them.)


Cobalt is important to the production of vitamin B12, which improves digestion, immune response and general vigor. Cobalt deficiency can lead to anemia. (Cobalt is probably more important for weaned lambs, but it's important to all classes of sheep.)


When you were considering the quality of your mineral, you were looking at the wrong tag. The price tag will tell you nothing about the mineral other than what it costs. The important thing is to find a mineral that is matched to your forage. Here in New England, we have very little (in some cases no) Se in our forage. Cobalt and iodine are also problematic, but can be highly variable from farm to farm. Each bag of mineral will carry a statement about what it provides. The only way to know if your mineral is working is to send off samples of blood, or better yet, liver, for analysis. Every year when I butcher lambs I try to send the liver from the best and the worst off for sampling.


Another major clue to the quality of mineral is its color. If it's red or brown, it has a lot of iron in it. Excess iron blocks uptake of other trace minerals, and the only purpose it serves in the mineral mix is that of a marker -- it lets the mixer operator tell when the ingredients are properly blended. Most mineral mixes without excessive iron will be a gray color. Lots of iron also reduces the palatability of the mix -- having the right ingredients doesn't matter if the ewes won't eat the mix.


It's a long, slow process, but if you've done what you can on all the other nutritional fronts and are still looking for better performance from your sheep, you may be able to make some incremental changes via the mineral.

Link to comment
Share on other sites



Do you have the link to the complete story? I'd be very interested in learning more about this case. Hunter Nutrition is pretty highly respected, and I have to say I'm a little skeptical of this report because your reference to it is the only thing that comes up on a google search for "sumner iowa hunter nutrition sheep"


Makes me wonder if this isn't a "Swiffer Wet Jet killed somebody's dog" kinda thing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Thanks for the reply, hope you're feeling better.

I don't have the link but will ask the person who sent it to me if she does.

Also thanks for your input on minerals. I'm not looking to change anything with my sheep at the moment other than different crosses to see what we come up with.

I think my minerals are good, sorta grey, clay red in color. I've looked at the ingredient label but really didn't know what was good or bad so haven't helped myself to much.

What I have noticed is the consumption is in my opinion the right amount.

When I first started in sheep I lived on a small place and offered minerals and salt free choice. They ate the heck out of both. So much that at the time I wondered what I was missing in the groceries department. Here in AR they get alot of variety in what the eat and the mineral consupmtion has dropped way down. I don't offer free choice salt anymore, I feel the minerals have enouth salt in them to take care of the sodium needs. The sheep that I hauled down here look better now than they ever did.

thanks and I'll ask the original sender about a link. She's gone for the weekend so it's be sometime next week.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

I tried to reply earlier, but this old computer crashed again. Ill be quick as I can. I've used Dumor sheep mineral since early last fall. They TEAR IT UP. Maybe that's why so many babies this year. The moms are tired of mothering though. I thought that free on pasture with no grain would give me a more natural-wild sheep birth rate, but now I just have wild mothers who won't feed their multiple babies!!!!! There is one little guy(one of the trips) that has learned to snatch a drink from several mom's. He also tanked up while I was shearing a couple this morning. Better hurry before I loose this again.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...