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JH Hoon

Grootfontein Agricultural Development Institute, P/Bag X529, Middelburg E.C., 5900

email: Jan Hoon



In their natural environment, wild species normally have little need for supplementary feeding as their free-ranging habits enable them to pursue more nutritious grazing and therefore satisfy their nutritional requirements. Grazing wildlife usually obtains the necessary minerals from natural pastures and drinking water, and some deficiencies are supplemented by their habit of licking soil that is high in minerals (Van der Merwe & Perold, 1967). For these reasons, the occurrence of mineral and trace element deficiencies in grazing wild animals are uncommon in most areas of South Africa.

In 1998, the Mier community in the Northern Cape Province requested an investigation into the mineral status of the game in their area. The Mier area lies is situated the southern Kalahari, south of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and between the Namibian and Botswana borders. The climate is semi-arid with a median rainfall of 146 mm per annum that falls predominantly during the summer months (January to April), when ambient temperatures and evaporative losses are high. The Kalahari consists of nutrient poor soils of aeolian origin, arranged into permanent linear dunes with the vegetation described as shrubby Kalahari dune bushveld. The total Mier area comprises some 420 000 ha of which 37 000 ha are managed as game ranches. The game ranches are communally owned and the financial return is used by the Mier Transitional Council. Observations by visiting hunters, extension officers, etc. to the game ranches in the Mier area raised the concern of possible mineral deficiencies amongst the game in that area. Most of the information available on the mineral nutrition of animals is obtained from domestic and laboratory animals and, therefore, little information on the mineral requirements of grazing wildlife in South Africa is available.

The widespread distribution of springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis) in South Africa makes it a suitable research subject for this study, as it allows for the collection of comparable samples in other areas. The springbok can be classified as an intermediate feeder and has the ability to adapt in different seasons and places towards either a grazing or a browsing diet, changing diet according to availability. Typically it grazes in summer and browses more in winter and during drought periods. The aim of this study was to determine the mineral and trace element status of springbok in the Mier area and compare it with the status of springbok from other areas in South Africa in order to identify possible deficiencies.



Blood, bone and liver samples from springbok were collected between June and October 1998 in the Mier area, as well as at Carnarvon in the Northern Cape Province, Somerset East in the Eastern Cape Province and the Gariep Dam Nature Reserve in the Free State Province. Blood samples were collected in heparinized vacuum tubes immediately after the animals were cropped. The blood samples were placed on ice in a container after sampling, centrifuged and the plasma aspirated. Plasma samples were then kept at –20°C until analysis. Samples were analyzed for P, Ca, Na, Mg, K, Cu and Zn. Liver samples  were collected after the animals were slaughtered, kept at –20°C and analysed for Cu, Fe, Zn, Mn, Mo and Se. Rib bone samples were collected after the animals were slaughtered, kept at -20°C and analysed for Ca, P and Mg. All the samples were collected and analysed using the methods described by Read et al. (1985), Van Niekerk & Van Niekerk (1989) and Van Niekerk et al. (1990). Statistical analyses were performed by using the GLM procedures of SAS (Littell et al., 2002).



The mean values for the different minerals and trace elements in the blood plasma, liver and rib bone samples of springbok at the different localities are presented in Tables 1, 2 and 3.

Table 1. Mean mineral and trace element values in the blood plasma samples of springbok at the different localities







P (mmol/l)

2.47 ± 0.34a

3.34 ± 0.29ab

3.34 ± 0.54ab

3.65 ± 0.45b

Mg (mmol/l)

1.23 ± 0.04a

1.05 ± 0.04b

1.10 ± 0.06ab

1.05 ± 0.05b

Ca (mmol/l)

2.27 ± 0.06a

2.50 ± 0.05b

2.51± 0.10b

2.58 ± 0.08b

Na (mmol/l)

140 ± 2.5a

149 ± 2.1b

148 ± 3.8ab

150 ± 3.2b

K (mmol/l)

8.28 ± 0.83a

9.12 ± 0.68a

9.99 ± 1.26a

7.40 ± 1.05a

Cu (ug/ml)

0.97 ± 0.07a

0.76 ± 0.06b

0.60 ± 0.12b

0.73 ± 0.10b

Zn (ug/ml)

1.81 ± 0.15a

1.55 ± 0.12a

1.31 ± 0.22a

1.70 ± 0.19a

ab Row means with common superscripts do not differ (P>0.05)

Blood plasma P, Ca and Cu values for springbok in the Mier area were lower (P<0.05) than that of the other three localities, while Mg was higher and Na lower than in the Carnarvon and Gariep areas.


Table 2. Mean trace element values in the liver samples of springbok at the different localities







Cu (ppm)

146 ± 13a

95 ± 12b

112 ± 21ab

69 ± 19b

Fe (ppm)

269 ± 19a

297 ± 18a

320 ± 31ab

369 ± 29b

Zn (ppm)

129 ± 5a

105 ± 4b

87 ± 8c

113 ± 7ab

Mn (ppm)

8.62 ± 0.60a

6.98 ± 0.55bc

5.14 ± 0.96b

8.96 ± 0.89ac

Mo (ppm)

1.93 ± 0.22a

2.75 ± 0.20b

2.19 ± 0.35ab

1.72 ± 0.33a

Se (ppm)

1.50 ± 0.08a

1.22 ± 0.08b

0.45 ± 0.13c

2.82 ± 0.13d

abcd Row means with common superscripts do not differ (P>0.05)

Liver trace element values for springbok in the Mier area varied, with some values higher and other lower than at the other three localities. The liver values in this study were generally higher than the values reported for springbok by Young et al. (1973).


Table 3. Mean mineral values in the rib bone samples of springbok at the different localities







Ca (%)

34.16 ± 2.14a

39.38 ± 1.97a

41.53 ± 3.44a

41.87 ± 3.60a

P (%)

16.61 ± 0.92a

17.82 ± 0.85a

15.47 ± 1.48a

15.48 ± 1.55a

Mg (%)

1.00 ± 0.14a

0.73 ± 0.13a

1.12 ± 0.23a

1.86 ± 0.24b

ab Row means with common superscripts do not differ (P>0.05)

Rib bone Ca and P values for springbok at the four localities did not differ (P>0.05), while rib bone Mg values at Gariep were higher (P<0.05) than that from the other localities.

Limited data on the mineral and trace element values of tissue samples from springbok are available, which makes it difficult to determine whether a certain value is low, normal or high. Compared to values available for sheep and cattle (Underwood, 1977; N.R.C., 1980; Puls, 1994), it appears that most of the values obtained from springbok at the different localities correspond well with the values considered normal (sufficient) for sheep and cattle. The values for rib bone Ca (34.16-41.87%), P (15.47-17.82%) and Mg (0.73-1.86%), blood plasma Ca (2.27-2.58 mmol/l) P (2.47-3.65 mmol/l) Mg (1.05-1.23 mmol/l), Na (140-150 mmol/l), Cu (0.60-0.97 ug/ml) and Zn (1.31-1.81 ug/ml), as well as liver Cu (69-146 ppm), Zn (87-129 ppm), Fe (269-369 ppm), Mn (5.14-8.96 ppm) and Mo (1.72-2.75 ppm) at all four localities can be described as normal (sufficient), using the values available for sheep and cattle. Plasma K values (7.40-9.99 mmol/l) appeared to be high in all the areas, which can possibly be attributed to the hunting process when samples were taken, as plasma K levels are known to increase during the shock phase of stress (Van Ryssen, 2000). Liver Se values (0.45-2.82 ppm) can also be classified as normal, with the exception of springbok at Gariep (2.82 ppm) that reached high to toxic levels, compared to the values available for sheep and cattle.

No differences (P>0.05) were observed between male and female springbok for any of the mineral and trace element values determined from blood plasma, bone and liver samples at any one of the localities.



Although some of the mineral and trace element values determined for springbok in the Mier area were lower (P<0.05) than that determined for the other areas, none of these values seems to be marginal or too low when compared to the values available for sheep and cattle. Further investigations are, however, necessary and more samples need to be collected from different areas in order to determine reliable mineral levels for springbok.



Read, M.V.P., Engels, E.A.N. & Smith, W.A., 1985. Phosphorus and the grazing ruminant. 1. The effect of supplementary P on sheep at Armoedsvlakte. S. Afr. J. Anim. Sci., 16, 1-6

Littell, R.C., Freud, R.J. & Struop, W.W., 2002. SAS-system for linear models. 4th Ed. SAS Institute Inc. Cary, NC, USA 

National Research Council, 1980. Mineral tolerance of domestic animals. Washington D.C., National Academy of Sciences

Puls, R., 1994. Mineral levels in animal health: Diagnostic data. 2nd ed. Sherpa Int., Clearbrook, BC, Canada

Van der Merwe, F.J., & Perold, I.S., 1967. Trace elements in natural pastures. J. S. Afr. Vet. Med. Ass. 38 (4), 355-363

Van Niekerk, F.E., Cloete, S.W.P. & Barnard, S.A., 1990. Plasma copper, zinc and blood selenium concentrations of sheep, goats and cattle. S. Afr. J. Anim. Sci. 20, 144-147

Van Niekerk, F.E. & Van Niekerk, C.H., 1989. Effect of high levels of dietary molybdenum and sulphate on SA Mutton Merino sheep. 1. Mineral status and haematological parameters. S. Afr. J. Anim. Sci. 19, 107-113

Van Ryssen, J.B.J., 2000. The multifactorial nature of trace nutrient nutrition and the supplementation of trace elements to livestock in South Africa. Proc. 38th Congr. S. Afr. Soc. Anim. Sci., Alpine Heath, KZN

Underwood, E.J., 1977. Trace elements in human and animal nutrition. 4th ed., New York Academic Press

Young, E, Zumpt, F., Basson, P.A., Erasmus, B., Boyazoglu, P.A., & Boomker, J., 1973. Notes on the parasitology, pathology and bio-physiology of springbok in the Mountain Zebra National Park. Koedoe 16: 195-198



The author wish to extend his thanks to the following people and organizations for their participation in and support of this project:

Personnel of the Animal Production Section: Grootfontein A.D.I., Middelburg EC

Personnel of the Northern Cape Department of Agriculture, Nature Conservation and Land Affairs: Mier Extension Area and Carnarvon Experimental Station

Personnel of the Free State Department of Agriculture, Nature Conservation and Land Affairs: Gariep Nature Reserve

Mr N Schoeman of the farm Grootdam, Somerset East district

Dr J Kitching and personnel of the Veterinary Laboratory – Stellenbosch

Prof JBJ van Ryssen – Department of Animal and Wildlife Science, University of Pretoria



Karoo Agric Vol6 No1 2003(25-27)