LSD for Sheep & Cattle

June 2005
Investigation by Marlborough vet Peter Anderson showed that lambs dying at birth were deficient in vitamin E. Drenching with vitamin E plus other critical nutrients that are critical to stock health vitamins A & D, selenium, iodine and chromium fixed the problem. Drenching dairy cattle with Livestock Survival Drench (LSD) has shown a substantial decrease in empty rate, earlier conception and calving, and an improvement in immune response that could decrease somatic cell counts.

The drench is now being manufactured in Nelson.

Peter Anderson has been a vet in Marlborough for about 30 years, and has specialised in sheep production. Twelve years ago he investigated a large number of neo-natal deaths in lambs that showed signs of selenium deficiency, but selenium levels were ok so he tested for vitamin E and found that was very low. Se and vitamin E are both antioxidants and work together one will cover for the other to a certain extent not fully. In New Zealand, says Peter, we have the idea that we dont need vitamin E because it is at high levels in grass. Overseas where cattle are housed and given lots of conserved feed that is low in vitamin E, they automatically give stock vitamin E supplements.

We encouraged a few farmers to give extra vitamin E without really understanding why the stock should need it, and when they did that they got far better lamb survival. It is only recently that I have come to understand that the cause is a combination of low vitamin E and a diet high in polyunsaturated fatty acids that increases demand for vitamin E.

The only supplement available at the time was a vitamins A, D and E mix and was quite expensive. So we ordered some vitamin E from overseas and with the help of veterinary nutritionists we also added other trace minerals and elements that I thought were necessary, including selenium, iodine which is deficient in many properties and has been shown to improve conception rates, and chromium which is a potent immune stimulant and helps with glucose metabolism. I thought that administering this in late pregnancy would help ewes with energy metabolism and get them through the high stress period.

The product Peter developed was about a third of the price of the other product, farmers started to use it and he got some good feedback, and the idea took off. He tried the mix with dairy cattle and got good responses.

We paired up about 50 cows in a particular herd with 50 others on the basis of parity (number of calvings) , and we got a dramatic response which I thought couldnt be true 19% dries in the controls and only 7% in the treated group.

We show the results to Scott MacDougall (an eminent vet from Morrinsville) and he set up another trial pairing up all cows in a herd on the basis of somatic cell counts as well as age, and got exactly the same results. Not only that, the treated cows got into calf seven days earlier on average, which meant a week's extra milk.

Information from overseas confirms the need for vitamin E and that it is a potent natural immunity stimulant.

Another factor is the move to high octane grasses, some of which have higher levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids which increase the demand for vitamin E.

In a recent North Canterbury trial comparing scanning percentage and lambing percentage, LSD gave better results than straight iodine given either as a drench or as an injection. Another trial looking at cattle responses to antibodies showed an improved immune response after being given LSD in all cases.

The cost is about 20 cents per dose for a ewe and about $1 for cattle.

Typically for sheep you would give one dosage prior to tupping, one around scanning, and one prior to lambing. For hoggets on crops, especially brassicas that had no vitamin E at all, monthly dosing is advised.

For cattle before calving, at calving and after that at monthly intervals during lactation.

If we can prove a somatic cell count response in dairy cattle you would probably want to do it monthly, and the results so far obtained after monthly drenching, so you might be looking at anything from 5 to 10 doses in a season.

Overall cost is not high, and for cattle that would be more than covered by the seven extra days in milk let alone the lower number of dries.

Some of my colleagues are critical because we don't have irrefutable proof, but when I tell them that the drench it has been and proven to increase ejaculate volume and that they should take it, that usually shuts them up! Peter would prefer irrefutable proof before advertising the product widely but the results from further trials are unlikely to be very different. A major problem is that it is expensive to test for vitamin E about $100 per test and to get statistically significant results requires hundreds of tests.

We don't have that sort of finance, we are not a multinational we are just a small vet clinic at the top of the South Island and we can spend huge amounts of money.

It is a nutritional supplement and as long as we don't make exorbitant claims we are OK. There is no harm in talking about the results that we've got so far, and quoting farmers who wouldn't be without it".

I only tried it with dairy cattle because all the overseas work has been done on cattle and there is a huge amount of data on the affects of vitamin E on immune response, somatic cell counts, infertility it's all there, I don't think we have to prove it again. I suppose we should show that we have low vitamin E levels, but testing 10 animals which you should do any test like that would cost $1000.

The product was originally called Lamb Survival Drench (LSD) but has now been changed to Livestock Survival Drench. The LSD part has stuck. It is made for Peters vet clinic by a Nelson company Nutrizeal, and is now readily available to farmers through their veterinarian.

Three years ago Stuart Neal noticed a lot of good lambs dying at birth. Autopsies showed that they hadnt been able to stand up and feed. He was a bit doubtful when Peter suggested the LSD drench, but he drenched the ewes and overnight the problem stopped.

Since then he has drenched the ewe flock two weeks before lambing each year and has had good survival rates.