Contact Details:

Australian Wool Innovation Limited
Emily King
Manager, Woolgrower Education & Capacity Building
ARTICLES >> Livestock Articles

Vitamin Vaccines – Snake oil or Sensible?

Posted by Bestprac on Jun 07 2011

by Geoff Duddy, Livestock Officer (Sheep & Wool), Industry & Investment NSW
Vitamin and mineral supplements are normally only beneficial when a deficiency exists or as a preventative when a problem is expected. Unfortunately producers are seldom sure of the need or, importantly, the cost benefits associated with the timing and value of many vitamin supplements.

Common vitamins available as a vaccine include Vitamins A, D, E and B12. While there may have been some benefits associated with using these during the drought, and/or when stock are fed high grain rations, given a return to ‘normal’ seasonal conditions are they necessary and/or cost effective?

Ewe’s milk. green feed and most hays are reasonable sources of vitamins A,D and E, and intake levels generally meet adult animal or progeny’s requirements. All are fat- soluble and long-term stored within the animal’s liver from which they are drawn upon during times of need. Trial work in an attempt to induce Vitamin A.D and/or E deficiencies have generally shown that it may take several years for symptoms to arise in most cases. There may however be some short-term benefits for vaccinating young lambs particularly if they have not had access to a green pick within 3 months prior to treatment

Following is a quick snapshot of these vitamins, their roles,+ requirements and/or possible benefit of supplementation.

Vitamin A

  • Produced through the conversion of carotene, an orange-yellow pigment found in many plants, fruits and vegetables. Green pasture, leaves, green hay and corn are good sources of Vitamin A.
  • Needed for normal bone growth & development; regulation of cell growth and light transmission to the brain. Deficiency (although rare) may cause night blindness, eye discharges and ill thrift. As little as 28 grams of green pick a day enough to meet Vitamin A needs

Vitamin E

  • An antioxidant that helps to protect body tissues, especially muscles and tissue membranes in growing animals.
  • Green feed, oils and grains (unless long term stored) are good Vitamin E sources
  • Deficiency symptoms may include lameness, muscle weakness and ill thrift. Accompanied with a selenium deficiency may induce white muscle disease in lambs but unless accompanied by a selenium supplement a Vitamin E injection alone will not prevent the disease
  • May possibly be seen in young stock which have not consumed green feed for several months.

Vitamin D

  • Produced in the animal’s skin.
  • Has roles to play in the absorption, deposition and excretion of calcium and phosphorus
  • Green hay is a reasonable source of Vitamin D.
  • Supplements may be necessary if feeding high grain-based diets particularly during winter or in lambs with diagnosed calcium deficiency.

Vitamin B12

  • Synthesized by rumen microbes from dietary cobalt.
  • Needed for cell growth, energy and wool production
  • Unlike vitamins A,D and E B12 is water-soluble but it is not excreted quickly in the urine. B12 instead accumulates and is stored in the liver, kidney and other body tissues.
  • Rate of absorption is enhanced by slow gut flow but inhibited if rumen or small intestines are damaged (eg: worms)
  • Colostrum and early lactation milk are reasonable sources. Availability declines during late lactation and levels are low in cereal grains.
  • Deficiencies generally occur when cobalt intake is inadequate. Cobalt deficiencies are more likely on sandy soils; during periods of lush pasture growth (Spring) within young lambs who do not yet have a fully functional rumen capable of producing B12

Subcutaneous injections of Vitamins A,D,E and B12 at best only offer short-term prevention or treatment of possible deficiencies. In the case of B12 trial work has shown that intramuscular injections and oral drenches are more effective however these procedures need to administered on almost a weekly basis. Cobalt bullets releasing low dose rates over an extended period, pasture dressing with fertilizers or foliar sprays or salt licks and mineral blocks are the supplements of choice in cobalt deficient areas.

The information contained in this publication is based on knowledge and understanding at the time of writing 06/07/11. However, because of advances in knowledge, users are reminded of the need to ensure that information upon which they rely is up to date and to check currency of the information with the appropriate officer of Industry & Investment NSW or the user’s independent adviser.


Last changed: Feb 16 2012



None Found

Add Comment