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The effect of vitamin E and long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation of pregnant and lactating ewes on the transfer of vitamin E to the lamb

  • J. L. Capper (a1), R. G. Wilkinson (a1), E. Kasapidou (a2), S. E. Pattinson (a1), A. M. Mackenzie (a1) and L. A. Sinclair (a1)...


It is reported that supplementing pregnant ewes with supra-optimal levels of vitamin E improves neonatal lamb vigour and growth rate (Merrell, 1998). The biochemical mechanism behind these observations has yet to be elucidated as several studies report negligible placental vitamin E transfer in ruminants (Van Saun et al., 1989); consequently, lambs may be clinically deficient in this nutrient at birth and achieve a satisfactory vitamin E status via colostrum ingestion. Lamb vitamin E status may be further diminished by the addition of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) to the maternal diet. However, PUFA supplementation demonstrably enhances foetal and neonatal development in human studies (Morley, 1998) although these effects have not been investigated in ruminants to any depth. The objective of this experiment was to investigate the effects of dietary vitamin E in combination with long-chain PUFA supplementation of ewes on ewe and lamb performance.


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Merrell, B. G. 1998. The effects on lamb survival rate of supplementing ewes with vitamin E during late pregnancy. Sheep Veterinary Society Proceedings 22: 5761
Morley, R. 1998. Nutrition and cognitive development. Nutrition 14: 752754.
Van Saun, R.J., Herdt, T. H. and Stowe, H. D. 1989. Maternal and fetal vitamin E concentrations and selenium-vitamin E interrelationships in dairy cattle. Journal of Nutrition 119: 11561164.


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