Concurrent changes in serum vitamin B12 and methylmalonic acid during cobalt or vitamin B12 supplementation of lambs while suckling and after weaning on properties in the South Island of New Zealand considered to be cobalt deficient
Gruner, TM, Sedcole, JR, Furlong, JM, Grace, ND, Williams, SD, Sinclair, G, Hicks, JD & Sykes, AR 2004, 'Concurrent changes in serum vitamin B12 and methylmalonic acid during cobalt or vitamin B12 supplementation of lambs while suckling and after weaning on properties in the South Island of New Zealand considered to be cobalt deficient', New Zealand Veterinary Journal, vol. 52, no. 3, pp. 129-136.
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AIM: To compare serum analyses of vitamin B12 and methylmalonic acid (MMA) as indices of cobalt/vitamin B12 defi ciency in lambs around weaning. METHODS: Lambs on fi ve properties, considered to be cobalt- defi cient, were supplemented with either cobalt bullets, or short- or long-acting vitamin B12 preparations. Blood samples, and in some cases liver biopsies, and liveweights were obtained at monthly intervals. Serum samples were assayed for vitamin B12 and MMA and liver for vitamin B12 concentrations. Pasture cobalt concentrations were measured on three of the properties. RESULTS: Pasture cobalt concentrations were generally maintained below 0.07 μg/g dry matter (DM) on the properties sampled. Growth responses to supplementation were observed on only 2/5 properties, despite serum vitamin B12 concentrations being within the currently used ‘marginal’ reference range (336–499 pmol/L) for at least 3 months on all properties and in the defi cient reference range (0–335 pmol/L) for at least 2 months on all farms except one. Serum MMA concentrations in supplemented lambs were μmol/L, except in those animals sampled 1 month after receiving treatment with a short-acting vitamin B12 injection. Serum MMA concentrations in unsupplemented animals on properties on which no growth response to supplementation occurred generally reached peak levels of between 4 and 7 μmol/L at the nadir of serum vitamin B12 concentration. When a growth response was observed, differences in weight gain between supplemented and unsupplemented lambs occurred as mean serum MMA concentrations increased from 9 to 14 μmol/L. On one property where supplementation commenced before weaning, normal growth rates were maintained despite serum vitamin B12 concentrations of 140 pmol/L and serum MMA concentrations in excess of 40 μmol/L serum. CONCLUSIONS: The possibility that current serum vitamin B12 references ranges for diagnosis of cobalt defi ciency are set too high and lead to over-diagnosis of responsiveness to cobalt/ vitamin B12 supplementation is discussed. The suggestion is made that serum MMA concentrations in excess of 9–14 μmol/L will provide a more reliable diagnostic test for cobalt defi ciency. However, there was suffi cient variation between properties in the relationships between cobalt concentrations of pasture and serum vitamin B12 or MMA concentrations to require more rigorous testing of the reliability of using serum MMA concentration for this purpose. The possibility that differences in rumen fermentation and therefore propionate and vitamin B12 production could be involved is discussed. The measurement of serum MMA and vitamin B12 appears to be of little value whilst the lamb is still suckling. CLINICAL SIGNIFICANCE: Serum MMA concentration may offer advantages over serum vitamin B12 concentrations in the diagnosis of a cobalt/vitamin B12 responsiveness in weaned lambs.