B12 supplementation in lambs

Over the last couple of seasons, we are observing significant growth responses in lambs where they have received Vitamin B12 supplementation.

In the rumen, dietary cobalt is converted into Vitamin B12 by the ruminal micro-organisms.

Young, growing lambs are most susceptible to deficiency as they have the highest B12 requirements of any stock class, at the same time of year that cobalt levels are lowest in their diet. This can mean that production limiting deficiency can be seen in lambs even where soils are not deficient.

We have farmers reporting 3 kilos of body weight difference between treated and not treated stock after the first month.

For ideal results supplementation starts at docking/tailing. Every day a lamb’s intake is below adequate Vitamin B12 levels, means growth rates are compromised; AgResearch trials support the finding that these losses will start before weaning.

How can we supplement? There are several ways; most of the clostridial vaccines such as Multine®, have a Vitamin B12 variant. If you have used Multine® in your ewes pre-lamb rather than Nilvax®, then vaccinating your lambs with Multine® at docking/tailing is recommended, so selecting the Multine® B12 variant will provide short-term B12 supplementation.

While useful this approach to supplementation will not provide the full benefit.

Similarly, if you are drenching lambs early with a product such as Corporal Tape, these drenches contain cobalt and again this will provide short duration supplementation.

Best results are gained when there is longer term supplementation, and using Smartshot® in lambs is our recommendation; this product comes in two versions, B12 only or B12 plus Selenium.

Smartshot® is injected subcutaneously and provides a slow-release depot under the skin. Trade lambs given a 0.5 mL dose will be adequately supplemented for 3-4 months, with a 1.0ml dose an option for replacements, as it will provide 6-8 months of adequate levels.

The price for 0.5mL dose at docking/tailing is $0.58* GST incl for B12 only or $0.67* for Smartshot® B12/selenium combination. A kilo of additional bodyweight gain gives a 10+ return on the upfront cost.

When using Smartshot®, a straight 5 in 1 clostridial vaccine can be used.

If you would like more information, please talk with either one of our commercial managers or one of our vet team and www.smartshot.co.nz provides useful information. Amongst other things, this link details useful tips on storing and how to’s.

*prices as of August 2023 and subject to change.