Magnesium deficiency: Don’t let it be an issue for your ewes this spring

Magnesium is an essential element involved in most biochemical processes within the body. However, it is estimated that up to 70% of magnesium in the body is stored in the bones and not released easily therefore sheep do need a continuous dietary supply. Magnesium deficiency, also known as hypomagnesaemia, grass staggers or grass tetany is one of the biggest killers of ewes post lambing with a large number also suffering from sub-clinical symptoms which may affect overall animal performance.

Ewes between 4 to 6 weeks post-lambing will be in peak lactation and at highest risk of hypomagnesaemia. Clinical signs of deficiency will occur rapidly and can quickly result in death which is why prevention is always better than cure. Spring grass will not only have a low magnesium content due to its rapid growth but also the higher water content at this time of year will increase the speed at which it passes through the gut further decreasing available magnesium absorption. Additionally, high levels of potassium and nitrogen can reduce magnesium absorption once the grazed grass has been eaten.

Alongside some basic management steps, such as reduced stress, maintained dry matter intakes and supplementation with straw or hay to slow digestion, daily magnesium supplementation is important, especially during risk periods. A lactating ewe will require 1-2 g/h/d of magnesium, however during stress periods an ewe’s magnesium absorption will be lower and requirement should therefore be increased further.

OPTI-LIX SHEEP MAG is a new Downland product for this season. It is a low moisture, controlled intake lick containing 8% magnesium from a bioavailable source to help support optimum blood magnesium levels. At the recommended feed rate this will supply above a ewe’s requirement for magnesium during lactation. The high sugar content of the product also makes it very palatable, which gives assurance that sheep will readily take the product, which is critical in the control of this common, well known spring challenge. The high sugar content will also support forage digestibility ensuring ewes get the most from their diet during peak lactation.

OPTI-LIX SHEEP MAG contains a full range of other minerals, vitamins and trace elements to help balance those often found deficient in grazing. The inclusion of protected zinc also aids in the management of good tissue health, reduced foot issues including lameness and mastitis.

OPTI-LIX SHEEP MAG is available as a 20kg bucket. It is recommended that it be offered free access when there is a risk of grass staggers at a ratio of one bucket per 35 head of sheep. It is not recommended for ewes pre-lambing, ad-lib forage should always be available. Ewe intakes up to 50 g/head per day.

26th February 2021

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