Calcium Deficiency in Lambs

13th September 2018

Over the past few weeks we have attended several cases of calcium deficiency within mobs of lambs currently grazing cereal crops. The typical presentation has been multiple lambs suffering from broken legs and broken vertebrae, especially when handled in the yards. Blood testing on a sample of affected animals has revealed very low serum calcium levels.

Some of these affected mobs have only been grazing cereal crops for a short period of time however given the current season most of them will have been maintained on grain for the several months prior. Both cereal pastures and grains are low in calcium and as a result the animals mobilise calcium from bone reserves to maintain serum levels; eventually leading to weakened bones susceptible to fracture.

One differing presentation involved a mob of lambs yarded for drafting. After being processed there were 2 animals that died suddenly and a further 3-4 unable to get up. Following treatment with 4 in 1 the recumbent lambs responded quickly and were able to run away, confirming hypocalcaemia as the likely diagnosis.

Given these cases we would recommend providing a calcium supplementation to all livestock (sheep and cattle) that have been fed cereal grains with minimal access to hay/dry feed for a prolonged period of time. One of the easiest and most cost effective methods is to mix lime (calcium) + causmag (magnesium) + salt in a third/third/third ratio and provide as a dry lick for stock to consume ad-lib. All of these products are generally available at most produce stores. Alternatively, lime +/- causmag can be added to grain at 1-1.5% when auguring/mixing prior to feeding. When grazing wheat crops it is especially important to include the causmag as well as the lime.

Please to not hesitate to call the clinic for further advice.