For sheep grazing pastures in areas of mineralisation and former metalliferous mining activity, an excessive intake of potentially harmful elements (PHEs) such as fluorine (F) and lead (Pb) can result in clinical and subclinical toxicity. The prime aim of our work was to calculate the intakes of both of these PHEs by sheep grazing pastures in the mineralised/mined Peak District area of Derbyshire. The bi-monthly sampling of topsoils (0–15 cm depth) and the faeces of sheep from fields at seven farms was undertaken for a 1-year period. These samples were analysed for titanium that allowed the rates of soil ingestion (and hence also herbage ingestion since we assume that the sheep have an overall diet of 1 kg dry matter (DM)/day) to be determined. Our findings were then combined with previously published soil and soil-free pasture herbage F and Pb concentrations determined from the seven farms to calculate the intakes of both PHEs. The results show seasonal variations of soil ingestion at the seven farms ranging from <0.1 to 20.1 % of the DM intake (median = 3 %), with the highest rates of ingestion being associated with the winter–spring (i.e. December–April) period. Our calculations show that at some farms, sheep can be exposed to dietary concentrations in excess of recommended guidelines potentially throughout the whole year, though livestock movement to less-contaminated pastures would lessen any toxic impact. Because the soil concentrations are greater than those associated with soil-free pasture herbage, ingested soils are the main dietary source of Pb and (especially) F to sheep. However, subjecting freshly sampled topsoils to sequential extraction procedures undertaken in the laboratory indicates that the majority of Pb and (especially) F may not be readily soluble in the ovine digestion system, so reducing the quantities of both PHEs available for absorption.
- Derbyshire (UK)
- sequential extraction procedure
- soil contamination
- soil ingestion