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Cobalt / Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Cobalt is an essential trace element in the diet of ruminants and is ingested with pasture and sometimes soil. Like other ruminants, goats require cobalt for the production of vitamin B12 which has a number of important roles within the animal.

Cobalt is converted to vitamin B12 in the rumen by micro-organisms. Sheep require vitamin B12 and hence cobalt, for:

  • Cell growth and maturation
  • Energy production
  • Fleece production

Productivity and profitability can be severely effected as a result of cobalt/vitamin B12 deficiency through:

  • reduced growth rates, particularly in young animals
  • reduced fleece quality
  • low lambing percentages and low birth weights
  • decreased fertility
  • high mortality rates in severe cases
  • poor feed utilisation

In most cases a marginal deficiency is of greatest concern as production losses may go unnoticed lowering productivity from year to year. A "tail in the mob" is characteristic of this form of deficiency. Reductions in growth rates and wool production have been reported, in sheep, as high as 15 % in marginally deficient areas.

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