Published online by Cambridge University Press: 09 March 2007
Three experiments were carried out to evaluate the effects of varying levels of mineral and iodine supplements when offered to ewes in late pregnancy on lamb serum immunoglobulin G (IgG) concentrations. In experiment 1, 44 individually housed ewes were allocated to one of four treatments (no. = 11) and offered a basal diet of grass silage ad libitum which was supplemented with 500 g/day of a concentrate (190 g/kg of crude protein (CP)), in addition to mineral/vitamin fortification at the rate of 0 g (C), 17.3 g (LM), 34.6 g (MM) or 52.0 g (HM) per day for the final 7 weeks of pregnancy. The mineral/vitamin supplement contained Ca, P, Na, Mg, Mn, Se, I, Co, Mn and vitamin E. The ewes were milked at 1 h, 10 h and 18 h post partum and measured quantities of colostrum, proportional to lamb birth weight, were fed back to the lambs via a stomach tube. Treatment had no effect on total colostrum yield or total IgG yield to 18 h post partum (P > 0.05). There was a linear decrease in serum IgG concentration and IgG absorption efficiency as mineral supplementation increased (P < 0.001). In experiment 2, which was carried out in conjunction with experiment 1, 44 ewes were allocated to four treatments (no. = 11) and offered the same basal silage/concentrate diet as in experiment 1, in addition to receiving one of the following supplements : (C) control, as in experiment 1; (HM), as in experiment 1; (−I), ewes offered the same mineral/vitamin supplement as HM but with iodine excluded; (I0), ewes offered a daily mineral supplement of iodine only at a level of 40 mg per ewe, equivalent to the iodine inclusion in the 52 g of minerals offered in HM. The iodine-supplemented progeny (HM and IO) had lower (P < 0.001) serum IgG concentrations and higher soil scores (P < 0.05) than the C and −I progeny. In experiment 3, the effects of varying levels of iodine supplementation when offered to ewes during the final 6 weeks of pregnancy on lamb serum IgG values were examined. Forty-eight individually housed ewes were allocated to one of four treatments (no. = 12) and offered grass silage ad libitum, which was supplemented initially with 500 g of a concentrate (140 g/kg of CP) from days 99 to 130 of gestation and then replaced with 700 g/day of a concentrate (180 g/kg of CP) from day 131 of gestation until lambing. In addition, the diet of each ewe was supplemented on a daily basis with iodine at the rate of 0 mg (C), 8.9 mg (LI), 17.7 mg (MI) or 26.6 mg (HI). There was a negative linear reduction in serum IgG concentration and IgG absorption efficiency as maternal dietary iodine supplementation increased (P < 0.001). We conclude that supplementation of the ewe's diet in late pregnancy with 17.3 g of a mineral supplement as formulated in the current experiment lowers the lamb's ability to absorb colostral IgG, and offering only the iodine component of this mineral supplement, at a level which approximates to about one third of currently quoted toxicity levels, will result in reduced serum IgG concentration in the lamb. These findings suggest the need to re-examine current toxicity values for iodine.