Vitamin E and selenium have been reported to improve immune function across a range of species. Ewes lambing on poor-quality dry pasture in autumn in Western Australia are at risk of being deficient in vitamin E and selenium at lambing thus predisposing their lambs to deficiencies and increasing the risk of infection and disease. This study tested the hypotheses that (i) supplementation of autumn-lambing ewes with vitamin E plus selenium in late gestation will increase the concentrations of vitamin E and selenium in plasma in the ewe and lamb and (ii) that the increased concentrations of vitamin E and selenium in plasma in the lambs will improve their innate and adaptive immune responses and thus survival. Pregnant Merino ewes were divided into a control group (n=58) which received no supplementation or a group supplemented with vitamin E plus selenium (n=55). On days 111, 125 and 140 of pregnancy ewes in the vitamin E plus selenium group were given 4 g all-rac-α-tocopherol acetate orally. On day 111 the ewes were also given 60 mg of selenium as barium selenate by subcutaneous injection. The concentrations of α-tocopherol and selenium were measured in ewes and/or lambs from day 111 of pregnancy to 14 weeks of age±10 days (weaning). Immune function of the lamb was assessed by analysing the numbers and phagocytic capacities of monocytes and polymorphonuclear leucocytes and plasma IgG and anti-tetanus toxoid antibody concentrations between birth and 14 weeks of age±10 days. Maternal supplementation with vitamin E plus selenium increased the concentration of α-tocopherol in plasma (1.13 v. 0.67 mg/l; P<0.001) and selenium in whole blood (0.12 v. 0.07 mg/l; P<0.01) of the ewes at lambing compared with controls. Supplementation also increased the concentration of α-tocopherol (0.14 v. 0.08 mg/l; P<0.001) and selenium (0.08 v. 0.05 mg/l; P<0.01) in lambs at birth compared with controls. There was no significant effect of supplementation on immune function or survival in the lambs.