Lamb Production

How does calcium and magnesium affect lamb survival?

Sheep Central July 3, 2017

Graham Centre researcher Dr Shawn McGrath

LAMB survival impacts of supplementing pregnant ewes with calcium and magnesium will be outlined at the annual Graham Centre Sheep Forum this week.

Research at the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation is investigating if adding calcium and magnesium to the diets of pregnant ewes can boost lamb survival.

The Charles Sturt University (CSU) led project, funded by Australian Wool Innovation (AWI), will be outlined at the Graham Centre’s sheep forum on Friday July 7.

CSU lecturer in whole farm management and Graham Centre researcher Dr Shawn McGrath (left) says the research follows a 2016 study of ewe flocks in NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.

“The preliminary results of this on-farm study showed there may be some relationship between lamb survival and the calcium and magnesium status of ewe flocks.

“We know that clinical hypocalcaemia or low calcium levels in blood, and hypomagnesaemia or low magnesium levels in blood, can compromise the health of the ewes and result in death,” Dr McGrath said.

“A review of scientific literature has identified that even when the ewe is not showing clinical signs, there are a number of mechanisms by which the calcium and magnesium status may have a role in the poor survival of newborn lambs.”

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An experiment this year will test the role of calcium and magnesium in lamb survival by comparing lamb survival when ewes are supplemented to when no supplements are fed.

“The experiments will be conducted on five farms across NSW, South Australia and Western Australia with interstate trials managed by the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) and Murdoch University.

“Our aim is to see if the possible benefits to lamb survival identified in the literature can be demonstrated on farm,” Dr McGrath said.

The research is led by Graham Centre Director Professor Michael Friend and involves Dr McGrath, Dr Susan Robertson and Dr Marie Bhanugopan from CSU; Dr Janelle Jenkins from SARDI and Dr Serina Hancock from Murdoch University.

Dr McGrath will present the research at the Graham Centre’s sheep forum on Friday 7 July at the CSU Convention Centre in Wagga Wagga.

The forum will examine on-farm productivity, meat quality, sheep health and new research with speakers from CSU, NSW Department of Primary Industries and the industry.

Producers can register to attend the event at


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