U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Date of this Version


Document Type



Page et al.: Increasing dietary Zn on ewe mammary health. https://doi.org/10.15232/aas.2022-02268


Open access


Objective: The objective of the research was to evaluate the effects of increasing dietary Zn sulfate concentration for primiparous gestating ewes on subsequent milk SCC, intramammary microbial identifications, and fatty acid composition.

Materials and Methods: Commercial white-face (WF; n = 27) and black-face (BF; n = 24) ewes (age ≈18 mo; BW = 87.48 ± 8.37 kg) were sorted into breed-type groups and within groups ranked by BW, and then, they were randomly divided into 3 dietary supplement treatment groups: CON (n = 13; 40 mg/kg Zn; ≈1 × NASEM recommendations), Zn500 (n = 21; 500 mg/kg Zn; ≈4 × NASEM recommendations), and Zn1000 (n = 17; 1,000 mg/kg Zn; ≈7 × NASEM recommendations). Treatments were administered in Zn-fortified pelleted alfalfa (0.45 kg/ewe per day) and fed from 87.5 ± 8.9 d of gestation until parturition. Milk traits collected at parturition (d 1 of lactation), ≈30 d of lactation, and lamb weaning (≈90 d of lactation) were assessed as repeated measures with fixed effects of treatment, breed type, and litter size.

Results and Discussion: The treatment × breed type interaction affected ewe logSCC (P = 0.01), and within Zn500, BF had greater logSCC than WF ewes (5.90 ± 0.08 vs. 5.46 ± 0.08; P < 0.01). However, breed types did not differ between CON and Zn1000 treatments (P ≥ 0.92). Ewe logSCC was greatest (P < 0.01) at weaning (6.03 ± 0.06), intermediate at parturition (5.72 ± 0.06; d 1), and least at d 30 of lactation (5.21 ± 0.06). Intramammary infections were common in milk samples collected at parturition (77%) and weaning (47%) based on culture-based microbial identifications. The most frequently identified species included Bacillus spp. and Staphylococcus spp. Black-face ewes had greater concentrations of C16:1 (1.78 mg/100 vs. 1.39 mg/100 mg of fatty acid per 100 mg of total fatty acids), C17:1 (0.86 mg/100 vs. 0.76 mg/100 mg of fatty acid per 100 mg of total fatty acids), and C20:4 (0.28 mg/100 vs. 0.24 mg/100 mg of fatty acid per 100 mg of total fatty acids; P ≤ 0.04) than WF ewes.

Implications and Applications: Including Zn in diets beyond NASEM recommendations from mid to late gestation had no effect on ewe milk SCC, microbial pathogens identified, or fatty acid composition. However, findings indicated there may be important breed differences in dietary Zn utilization and requirements affecting intramammary inflammation.