Skip to main content Accessibility help

The effect of late pregnancy supplementation of ewes with vitamin E on lamb vigour

  • J. A. Rooke (a1), S. Matheson (a1), S. Ison (a1), M. Jack (a1), C. J. Ashworth (a1) (a2) and C. M. Dwyer (a1)...


The experiment measured lamb responses to supplementation of the pregnant ewe diet with vitamin E above requirement. Crossbred ewes were mated with either Suffolk or Texel rams. Twin-bearing ewes were randomly allocated (approximately 21 months of age at allocation) to one of four treatment groups (20 ewes per group, 10 mated with Suffolk and 10 with Texel rams). Treatments imposed were 50, 100, 150 or 250 IU supplementary vitamin E per ewe per day to give a four treatment by two sire-type factorial experimental design. Ewes were fed concentrates to meet energy requirements for stage of pregnancy and hay ad libitum. Diets were introduced approximately 6 weeks before lambing. Blood samples were obtained prior to introduction of diets, 17 days after introduction of diets and within 24 h of lambing from a subset of eight ewes per treatment (32 total). Colostrum samples were obtained from 10 ewes per treatment, 12 h after birth of the first lamb. All births were observed and a lamb vigour score was assigned to each lamb 5 min after birth. At 1 and 12 h after birth, rectal temperature, and at 12 h after birth, sex, crown-rump length and BW of each lamb were recorded. Mean ewe plasma α-tocopherol concentration prior to introduction of the diets was 1.5 μg/ml (s.e.m. 0.09) and did not differ between groups. There were positive linear (P < 0.001) effects of dietary vitamin E on plasma (17 days after introduction of diets) and colostrum (12 h after birth) α-tocopherol concentrations. Lamb vigour scores were superior (P < 0.001) for lambs sired by Texel rather than Suffolk rams but there were no differences as a result of vitamin E supplementation. Lamb mortality was low and unrelated to either sire or supplementary vitamin E. Lamb birth and weaning weights were also unaffected by vitamin E supplementation. Supplementing the ewe with vitamin E therefore had no effect on any lamb measurements.


Corresponding author


Hide All
AFRC 1993. Energy and protein requirements of ruminants. An advisory manual prepared by the AFRC Technical Committee on Responses to Nutrients. CAB International, Wallingford, UK.
Burton, GW, Webb, A, Ingold, KU 1985. A mild, rapid, and efficient method of lipid extraction for use in determining vitamin E lipid ratios. Lipids 20, 2939.
Capper, JL, Wilkinson, RG, Kasapidou, E, Pattinson, SE, Mackenzie, AM, Sinclair, LA 2005. The effect of dietary vitamin E and fatty acid supplementation of pregnant and lactating ewes on placental and mammary transfer of vitamin E to the lamb. The British Journal of Nutrition 93, 549557.
Capper, JL, Wilkinson, RG, Mackenzie, AM, Sinclair, LA 2006. Polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation during pregnancy alters neonatal behavior in sheep. Journal of Nutrition 136, 397403.
Dafoe, JM, Kott, RW, Sowell, BF, Berardinelli, JG, Davis, KC, Hatfield, PG 2008. Effects of supplemental safflower and vitamin E during late gestation on lamb growth, serum metabolites, and thermogenesis. Journal of Animal Science 86, 31943202.
Daniels, JT, Hatfield, PG, Burgess, DE, Kott, RW, Bowman, JGP 2000. Evaluation of ewe and lamb immune response when ewes were supplemented with vitamin E. Journal of Animal Science 78, 27312736.
Debier, C, Larondelle, Y 2005. Vitamins A and E: metabolism, roles and transfer to offspring. The British Journal of Nutrition 93, 153174.
Defra 2004. Improving lamb survival. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, London.
Dwyer, CM 2008. The welfare of the neonatal lamb. Small Ruminant Research 76, 3141.
Dwyer, CM, Lawrence, AB 2000. Effects of maternal genotype and behaviour on the behavioural development of their offspring in sheep. Behaviour 137, 16291654.
Dwyer, CM, Lawrence, AB 2005. A review of the behavioural and physiological adaptations of hill and lowland breeds of sheep that favour lamb survival. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 92, 235260.
Flinn, LD, Whiteman, JV 1974. Reproductive performance of Dorset X Western ewes when mated to Dorset or Blackface rams. Journal of Animal Science 39, 1823.
Fry, JM, Smith, GM, McGrath, MC, Speijers, EJ, Allen, JG 1993. Plasma and tissue concentrations of alpha-tocopherol during vitamin E depletion in sheep. The British Journal of Nutrition 69, 225232.
Genstat 2008. Genstat release 11 reference manual. Part 2: directives. Clarendon Press, Oxford.
Gentry, PC, Ross, TT, Oetting, BC, Birch, KD 1992. Effects of supplemental d-α-tocopherol on preweaning lamb performance, serum and colostrum tocopherol levels and immunoglobulin G titers. Sheep and Goat Research Journal 8, 95100.
Hidiroglou, N, Madere, R, McDowell, LR, Toutain, PL 2003. Influence of sources of dietary vitamin E on the maternal transfer of alpha-tocopherol to fetal and neonatal guinea pigs as determined by a stable isotopic technique. The British Journal of Nutrition 89, 455466.
Hoehler, D, Frohlich, AA, Marquardt, RR, Stelsovsky, H 1998. Extraction of alpha-tocopherol from serum prior to reversed-phase liquid chromatography. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 46, 973978.
Liesegang, A, Staub, T, Wichert, B, Wanner, M, Kreuzer, M 2008. Effect of vitamin E supplementation of sheep and goats fed diets supplemented with polyunsaturated fatty acids and low in Se. Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition 92, 292302.
Lowman, BG, Scott, NA, Somerville, SH 1976. Condition scoring of cattle. East of Scotland College of Agriculture, UK.
McDowell, LR, Williams, SN, Hidiroglou, N, Njeru, CA, Hill, GM, Ochoa, L, Wilkinson, NS 1996. Vitamin E supplementation for the ruminant. Animal Feed Science and Technology 60, 273296.
Merrell, B 1999. Effects of supplementing ewes with vitamin E in late pregnancy on sheep performance. In Proceedings of Workshop on Vitamin E Requirement in Sheep. Harper Adams University College, UK.
Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food 1992. Analysis of agricultural materials, 2nd edition. Her Majesty’s Stationary Office, London.
Munoz, C, Carson, AF, McCoy, MA, Dawson, LER, O’Connell, NE, Gordon, AW 2008. Nutritional status of adult ewes during early and mid-pregnancy. 2. Effects of supplementation with selenised yeast on ewe reproduction and offspring performance to weaning. Animal 2, 6472.
Rooke, JA, Dwyer, CM, Ashworth, CJ 2008. The potential for improving physiological, behavioural and immunological responses in the neonatal lamb by trace element and vitamin supplementation of the ewe. Animal 2, 514524.
Toutain, PL, Hidiroglou, M, Charmley, E 1995. Pharmacokinetics and tissue uptake of D-alpha-tocopherol in sheep following a single intraperitoneal injection. Journal of Dairy Science 78, 15611566.


The effect of late pregnancy supplementation of ewes with vitamin E on lamb vigour

  • J. A. Rooke (a1), S. Matheson (a1), S. Ison (a1), M. Jack (a1), C. J. Ashworth (a1) (a2) and C. M. Dwyer (a1)...


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