Skip to main content Accessibility help

Failure of mineral supplementation to avert apparent sodium deficiency in lambs with abomasal parasitism

  • N. F. Suttle (a1), J. Brebner (a2), K. McLean (a1) and F. U. Hoeggel (a3)


Two groups of 28 Finnish Landrace (FL) lambs were given (group Mg) or denied (group O) access to a magnesium (Mg)-rich mineral mixture to establish its role in the hitherto frequent development of diarrhoea in the flock. Diarrhoea developed in most lambs but became marginally worse in group Mg (P < 0·05) by weaning. At weaning, 28% of the lambs had salivary sodium: potassium (Na: K) ratios < 4 indicating Na deficiency but pasture was not low in Na (60·9 mmol/kg dry matter (DM)) and providing the mineral mixture (which also contained Na) did not alleviate the deficiency. Raised plasma pepsinogen (PP) concentrations were indicative ofabomasal parasitism and all lambs were drenched with levamisole. Groups were subdivided at weaning, either continuing on their previous treatments (groups Mg/Mg and O/O) or being offered pure salt (NaCl) (groups Mg/Na and O/Na). Mineral consumption was measured from weaning and varied widely between groups and with time for the first 2 weeks. Early consumption was maximal at 19·6 g per head per day in group Mg/Mg and zero in group Mg/Na and faecal DM was significantly lower in the former group (165 v. 223 (s.d. 16·9) g/kg DM). All groups showed an improvement in Na status after weaning followed by a decline and NaCl consumption showed opposite changes about a mean of 6·3 g per head per day: faecal DM became uniformly low (ca. 200 g/kg fresh weight) in all groups. A further rise in PP prompted a second treatment with levamisole 6 weeks after weaning. When salivary Na: K was low (1 and 7 weeks after weaning), a significant relationship (P = 0·002) was found between salivary K (mmol/l), faecal DM (g/kg) and plasma pepsinogen (PP U per l;):

K = 22·9 + 4·5 PP – 0·047 DM (d.f. 82: r = 0·34).

Nematodiasis may have caused an ion imbalance and an associated diarrhoea, inducing a craving for NaCl which was ill-met by a mixture rich in laxative Mg.



Hide All
Agricultural Research Council. 1980. The nutrient requirements of ruminant livestock, pp. 313314. Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux, Slough.
Bell, F. W. 1993. Perception of sodium and sodium appetite in farm animals. In Sodium in agriculture (ed. Phillips, C. J. C. and Chiy, P. C.), pp. 8290. Chalcombe Publications, Canterbury.
Chiy, P. C. and Phillips, C. J. C. 1993. Sodium in ruminant nutrition, production, reproduction and health. In Sodium in agriculture (ed. Phillips, C. J. C. and Chiy, P. C.), pp. 107144. Chalcombe Publications, Canterbury.
Christie, M. and Jackson, F. 1982. Specific identification of strongyle eggs in small samples of sheep faeces. Research in Veterinary Science 32: 113117.
Coop, R. L. 1971. The effect of large doses of Haemonchus contortus on the level of plasma pepsinogen and the concentration of electrolytes in the abomasal fluid of sheep. Journal of Comparative Pathology 81: 213219.
Denton, D. A. 1982. The hunger for salt. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.
Lawes Agricultural Trust. 1987. Genstat 5 reference manual. Clarendon Press, Oxford.
Lee, S. R. and Britton, W. M. 1987. Magnesium-induced catharsis in chicks. Journal of Nutrition 117: 19071912.
McDowell, L. R. 1993. Salt in free-choice mineral supplements for grazing livestock. In Sodium in agriculture (ed. Phillips, C. J. C. and Chiy, P. C.), pp. 162172. Chalcombe Publications, Canterbury.
McSweeney, C. S., Cross, R. B., Wholohan, B. T. and Murphy, M. R. 1988. Diagnosis of sodium status in small ruminants. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 39: 935942.
Michel, A. R. 1974. Body fluids and diarrhoea: dynamics of dysfunction. Veterinary Record 94: 311315.
Michel, A. R. 1985. Sodium in health and disease: a comparative review with emphasis on herbivores. Veterinary Record 116: 653657.
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. 1986. Manual of veterinary parasitological techniques. Reference book 418, 3rd edition, pp. 3637. HMSO, London.
Murphy, G. M. and Connell, J. A. 1970. A simple method of collecting saliva to determine the sodium status of cattle and sheep. Australian Veterinary Journal 46: 575598.
Mylrea, P. J. and Hotson, I. K. 1969. Serum pepsinogen and the diagnosis of bovine ostertagiasis. British Veterinary Journal 125: 378388.
Pamp, D. E., Goodrich, R. D. and Meiske, J. C. 1976. A review of the practice of feeding minerals free choice. World Review of Animal Production 12: 1317.
Rowell, J. G. and Walters, D. E. 1976. Analysing data with repeated observations. Journal of Agricultural Science, Cambridge 84: 423442.
Sinclair, K. B. and Jones, D. I. H. 1968. Comparison of the weight gain and the composition of blood and saliva in sheep grazing timothy and ryegrass swards. British Journal of Nutrition 22: 661666.
Suttle, N. F. 1992. Health at grass. The Sheep Farmer April 1992, pp. 2627.
Suttle, N. F. 1994. Seasonal infections and nutritional status. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 53: 545555.
Suttle, N. and Brebner, J. 1995. A putative role for larval nematode infection in diarrhoeas of lambs which do not respond to anthelmintic drenches. Veterinary Record 137: 311316.
Taylor, E. L. 1939. Technique for the estimation of pasture infestation by strongyloid larvae. Parasitology 31: 473478.
Towers, N. R. and Smith, G. S. 1983. Sodium (Na). In The mineral requirements of grazing ruminants (ed. Grace, N. D.), Occasional publication no. 9, pp. 115124. New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Palmerston North.
Wilson, W. D. and Field, A. C. 1983. Absorption and secretion of calcium and phosphorus in the alimentary tract of lambs infected with daily doses of Trichostrongylus colubriformis or Ostertagia circumcincta larvae. Journal Comparative Pathology 34: 305309.


Failure of mineral supplementation to avert apparent sodium deficiency in lambs with abomasal parasitism

  • N. F. Suttle (a1), J. Brebner (a2), K. McLean (a1) and F. U. Hoeggel (a3)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed