Project Introduction - Clawdd y Mynach

All ruminants (including sheep, cattle and goats) require cobalt in their diet for the synthesis of vitamin B12.  Vitamin B12 is essential in growing animals especially for energy metabolism, production of red blood cells and is needed by the gut microbes to convert the stomach contents into the food elements that the animal is capable of digesting.  Cobalt deficiency in soils can cause vitamin B12 deficiency in livestock.  Clinical signs of cobalt deficiency are most commonly observed in weaned lambs at pasture during late summer/autumn; these signs include lethargy, reduced appetite, and poor quality wool with an open fleece, small size and poor body condition despite adequate nutrition. 

In order to prevent cobalt deficiencies, most farmers now use many different methods of supplementing cobalt, these include the following;

  • supplementation of concentrate feeds
  • cobalt supplementation in salt licks
  • oral administration of cobalt slow release boluses
  • injectable vitamin B12
  • periodic oral drenching with cobalt
  • application of cobalt sulphate directly to pasture

Careful consideration is needed to choose the most appropriate way of supplementing cobalt.  Often the most cost effective supplement is one that is given directly into the animal e.g. a bolus or an injection; however, varied results are shown of the effectiveness of each product on lamb performance, therefore it is hard to know what method of supplementing cobalt is best to use.  If supplementation is required, it is always worth comparing treatments to see what works best for various farms and their animals. 


What will be done:

Three farms have been selected which cover a variety of enterprises in differing geographical locations, to cover multiple soil types. These farms have known cobalt deficiencies within their sheep population affecting lamb productivity, through weight gain.  They therefore supplement the growing lambs with cobalt.

Our aim with this project is to determine the effect of the mode of cobalt supplementation on the post weaning weight gain of lambs. The modes of cobalt supplementation include an oral slow release ruminal bolus and an injectable form.

140 lambs will be selected from each farm's 2019 twin population, will be ear tagged and weighed.  All twins will receive a selenium and iodine bolus to ensure consistency.  One twin will be assigned to the bolus group and the other to the injectable group.  The bolus group will receive a cobalt bolus.  The injectable group will receive 0.5ml of SmartShot via intramuscular injection.  10 lambs from each group (i.e. 20 per farm) will be blood sampled to get a baseline vitamin B12 (cobalt) level.

Each lamb will then be weighed every two weeks until they are 20 weeks old.  The same 20 animals from each farm will be repeat blood sampled for vitamin B12.

The lambs will be reared as the farm would do normally.