Rickets in Scottish blackface lambs on five South West Scotland farms

Emma Hurst, Katrina Henderson, Heather Stevenson, Tobias Schwarz, Sandra Scholes, Helen Carty, Colin Mason, Richard J. Mellanby*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Vitamin D plays a critical role in the regulation of calcium and phosphate homeostasis and in the development and maintenance of skeletal health. Sheep can obtain vitamin D via either cutaneous production following exposure to UV radiation or consumption of vitamin D containing foodstuffs. In northern Europe, sheep are often unable to cutaneously generate vitamin D in late winter due to the lack of UV radiation. Consequently, they are heavily reliant on dietary sources of vitamin D, which, if insufficient, can lead to rickets in growing lambs. Here, we report the diagnosis of rickets in Scottish blackface lambs on five farms in South West Scotland. Cases were diagnosed based on classical skeletal clinical signs alongside extremely low concentrations of 25 hydroxyvitamin D, the major circulating metabolite of vitamin D, which is widely used to assess vitamin D status. This report demonstrates that rickets can be a major health problem in hill sheep.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere001008
JournalVeterinary Record Case Reports
Issue number1
Early online date15 Mar 2020
Publication statusFirst published - 15 Mar 2020


  • rickets
  • sheep
  • Vitamin D

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    Hurst, E., Henderson, K., Stevenson, H., Schwarz, T., Scholes, S., Carty, H., Mason, C., & Mellanby, R. J. (2020). Rickets in Scottish blackface lambs on five South West Scotland farms. Veterinary Record Case Reports, 8(1), [e001008]. https://doi.org/10.1136/vetreccr-2019-001008