Sheep Nutritional Diseases Part1

Dec 21, 2022 | Sheep

Sheep Nutritional diseases Part 1

To be healthy, sheep require a source of energy that could come from carbohydrates or fats, protein, vitamins and minerals, as well as clean drinking water. Optimal production and reproduction is dependant on the quality of their diet and their daily feed intake. The daily intake will vary from sheep to sheep based on their genetics, age, breed, and well as physiological state, and it is important that sheep receives adequate nutrition so that nutritional deficiencies and diseases do not occur.

White Muscle disease:

Also known as Nutritional Muscular Dystrophy and Nutritional Myopathy.

Cause: Selenium and Vitamin E deficiency; usually associated with areas in which these two nutrients are deficient and occurs in newborn lambs and animals that experience fast growth rates.

Symptoms: The heart muscles and skeletal muscles of the animal are affected. Animals with White Muscle Disease move slowly and stiffly with a hunched back. If it affects the heart muscles, the animal may suffer from breathing problems and fever and may froth at the mouth.

Treatment: Selenium and vitamin E can be administered under veterinary supervision; it is best to catch the disease early.


Cause: An imbalance or deficiency of calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D in young animals like lambs.

Symptoms: The long bones of the leg may be become deformed as they try to bear weight or bones may become fractured due to lack of essential trace minerals. Swelling at the ends of the long bones has often been observed, along with stiff and difficulties walking.

Treatment: Diagnosis and correction of deficiencies or imbalances through ensuring that the diet is balanced. The animals should also be exposed to sunlight to increase the production of vitamin D3 precursors.

Urinary calculi:

This disease affects mainly rams and wethers.

Cause: If the diet of the animal is very high in mineral salts, it may cause deposits within the urinary organs of the animal; these salt deposits can pass into the ureter and urethra, and may plug up the urinary passages, causing painful blockages. This condition is often seen in animals fed a high concentrate diet of cereal grains.

Symptoms: The blocked ducts lead to a difficulting urinating, often accompanied by a twitching tail and stomping feet, a stiff-legged gait and arched back. In extreme cases, the bladder may rupture and cause a condition known as “waterbelly”.

Treatment: Urinary calculi can be prevented by reducing the phosphorus content in the feed and ensuring that a calcium: phosphorus ratio of 2:1, increasing dietary NaCl, vitamin A and β-carotene, as well as reducing grain intake. It is very important that animals have access to clean, good quality drinking water at all times. Affected animals can be drenched in ammonium chloride to help treat the condition.


Cause: Impaired thiamine absorption or high sulfur intake and can be experienced by a single animal or as an outbreak in a herd or flock, and has been found to affect younger animals more than mature animals, Although animals on pasture have been found to develop this condition, it is more frequently seen in animals fed a high concentrate diet.

Symptoms: Animals with this condition have found to be lethargic, weak and uncoordinated, may develop blindness and depression and may display behaviours such as head pressing and grinding of teeth.

Treatment: Thiamine (Vitamin B1) should be administered under the supervision of a qualified person such as a vet or animal health technician. The treatment should be started as early as possible to ensure maximum recovery, and usually the effects will be within the first 24 hours.

It is important to include enough roughage in the diet if your flock is experiencing a polioencephalomalacia outbreak. If the problem has been linked to high sulfur intake, all possible sources of sulfur, including water, should be properly analysed and removed.

Contact you nearest Molatek technical advisor if your flock is showing any of the above symptoms, or if you feel there is cause for concern.

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