Differential effects of maternal undernutrition between days 1 and 90 of pregnancy on ewe and lamb performance and lamb parasitism in hill or lowland breeds

J. A. Rooke, J. G. M. Houdijk, K. McIlvaney, C. J. Ashworth, C. M. Dwyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This study examined the hypothesis that responses of Scottish Blackface (BF, a hill breed) and Suffolk (SUF, a lowland breed) ewes to undernutrition between d 1 and 90 of pregnancy would differ. Over 2 consecutive breeding seasons, ewes (4 pens/treatment; 15 to 20 ewes/pen) were artificially inseminated and from d 1 to 90 after AI allocated to 0.75 (restricted; RES) or 1.0 (control; CON) energy requirements for ewe maintenance and fetal growth. From d 90 to term, all ewes were allocated feed to meet requirements for stage of pregnancy and expected litter size. On d 90, RES ewes had lighter BW (P = 0.001) and smaller BCS (P = 0.019) than CON ewes. Plasma NEFA concentrations were greater in RES than CON ewes (P = 0.048) at d 60 of pregnancy. Pregnancy length was longer for RES than CON ewes (P = 0.003). Lambs from SUF-RES ewes had lighter birth weights than SUF-CON lambs, but BF-RES lamb birth weights were not different from BF-CON lambs (interaction, P = 0.066). However, maternal undernutrition did not affect BW at weaning (P > 0.45). Between birth and 3 d of age, BF lambs maintained greater body temperatures (P < 0.001) and plasma concentrations of triiodothyronine (T3, P < 0.001) and thyroxine (P < 0.001) than SUF lambs. Lambs from RES ewes had greater concentrations of T3 (P = 0.026) than CON lambs, whereas these differences were greater between BF-RES and BF-CON lambs than between SUF-RES and SUF-CON lambs (interaction, P = 0.028). Maternal undernutrition did not affect lamb rectal temperature (P > 0.27). In yr 1 only, fewer lambs (P = 0.022) were reared to weaning by RES than CON ewes. Similarly, in yr 1 only, other strongyle fecal egg counts at weaning were greater in SUF-RES lambs than SUF-CON, BF-CON, or BF-RES lambs (interaction, P = 0.099). This experiment showed that lambs of a breed selected for lean tissue growth and normally maintained in a lowland environment were more affected by maternal undernutrition between d 1 and 90 of pregnancy than lambs of a hill breed managed in a more adverse environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3833-3842
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Volume88
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010

Keywords

  • breed fecal egg count lamb performance maternal undernutrition neonate sheep

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