Investigation of stillbirths, perinatal mortality and weakness in beef calves with low-selenium whole blood concentrations

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 3
  • SDG 2
  • Abstract:

    In this on-farm investigation, we report on stillbirths, weakness and perinatal mortality seen in calves on a commercial beef farm in the Roossenekal area, Mpumalanga province, South Africa. Post-mortem examination of these calves and histopathological examination of organ and tissue samples did not indicate an infectious aetiology. Affected calves had marginal to deficient whole blood selenium concentrations. Whole blood samples collected from adult cattle on this farm and five neighbouring farms were deficient in selenium. The potential contributions of other minerals to the symptoms seen are a subject of ongoing investigation, but selenium deficiency was marked in this herd and required urgent correction. Methods to correct the deficiency included the use of injectable products, and an oral selenium supplement chelated to methionine. Selenium availability to plants is primarily determined by the selenium content of the parent bedrock, the presence of other minerals and the pH of the soil. The apparent sudden onset of this problem implicates a soil factor as being responsible for reducing selenium’s bioavailability in this area. Selenium deficiency can have a significant impact on human health. HIV and/or AIDS, various forms of cancer and several specific clinical syndromes are associated with selenium deficiency in humans, and the impact on human health in this area also requires further investigation.