Can vitamin E supplementation reduce the prevalence of Yellowses in sheep?

Fund

Norman Hayward Fund

Grant

£40,543

Research Period

2014

Area of study

Sheep

Description

Principal investigator: Janette Sutherland
 
Yellowses (plochteach or saut) is a condition that severely compromises welfare in hill sheep. It is a widespread problem reported in hill units across the UK. In a survey of 50 Scottish hill farmers, over 80% said that the disease complex was endemic on their farm.
Photosensitisation, caused by ingestion of certain plants, results in lambs with blistered and cracked skin. This often leads to secondary bacterial infections. Badly affected lambs can lose ears.
It is not practical to eliminate trigger plants from hill pasture. However there is anecdotal evidence from a hill unit in Skye that supplementation of lambs at marking with an oil-based multi-vitamin injection has reduced the prevalence of yellowses. Vitamin E is an anti-oxidant and has been found to be photo-protective in human experiments. It also has a function in liver protection, which may also reduce clinical signs.
 
The project will trial vitamin supplementation as a method that could reduce the occurrence of yellowses and be suitable for shepherds to use in extensive hill flocks. The potential impact of this trial would be a reduction in prevalence or severity of this painful condition. Vitamin supplementation would be a simple and cost effective prophylactic treatment, easily managed by farmers and veterinarians.