Authors:Z. Khan, A. Hussain, M. Ashraf, K. Ahmad, M. Danish, and L. McDowell
A study was conducted on the sheep farm of the Livestock Experimental Station, located in the southwestern Punjab, Pakistan, to determine the copper nutrition status of different classes of grazing sheep during two different seasons. A complete free-choice supplement (feed) was available to all animals throughout the year. The purpose of this research was to investigate, as a function of the seasons, the transfer of Cu from soil, and dietary factors to sheep grazing in this semiarid region, in order to evaluate if the Cu requirement of grazing livestock was met or if a deficiency occurred. The final goal was to maximize the production of the animals by adopting, if necessary, adequate, balanced Cu supplementation. Soil, forage, feed and water samples, and animal samples (plasma, milk, faeces and urine from lactating ewes, plasma, faeces and urine from non-lactating ewes and plasma and faeces from male animals) were taken eight times during the year (four times in each season). Soil copper was affected by the seasonal changes and sampling intervals and was significantly higher than plant needs during both seasons, while the forage copper level did not show significant seasonal fluctuations, but was only affected by the sampling intervals. The soil and forage Cu was sufficient for the requirements of the plants and the animals grazing there on during both seasons. The copper contents of the feed and water showed no seasonal or sampling interval fluctuations. The plasma Cu was affected by seasonal variations in non-lactating ewes and in rams and by sampling intervals in the lactating ewes. Faecal and urine Cu was not affected by seasonal or sampling intervals except in non-lactating ewes, where the sampling interval had a pronounced effect on faecal Cu, while milk Cu in lactating ewes was affected by seasonal changes only. In all classes of sheep plasma Cu was higher during the winter than during the summer and remained in the normal range for ruminants during both seasons. It is concluded that a mixture with high bioavailability, containing Cu, should be continuously provided to grazing sheep in this semi-arid region in order to maintain the normal level of Cu and maximize the production potential of ruminants.