Effect of ewe and lamb genotype on gestation length, lambing ease and neonatal behaviour of lambs

C M Dwyer, A B Lawrence, H E Brown, G Simm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

To distinguish between ewe and lamb breed effects on prenatal growth, ease of parturition and early lamb behaviour, an embryo-transfer study was carried out using a hill breed (Scottish Blackface; liveweight: 54.25 +/- 1.03 kg, mean +/- s.e.m.) and a lowland breed (Suffolk; 80.33 +/- 1.52 kg) to obtain the four possible combinations of ewe and lamb. Data were collected from 38 Blackface ewes (18 with Blackface lambs and 20 with Suffolk lambs) and 41 Suffolk ewes (20 with Blackface lambs and 21 with Suffolk lambs); all ewes were given single embryos. Suffolk lambs had a significantly longer gestation than Blackface lambs (1.5 days, P < 0.01), regardless of ewe breed. Suffolk lambs also had a longer labour (20 min, P < 0.05) and were significantly more likely to require birth assistance (17/21, 81% of all assisted deliveries; P < 0.001), as were male lambs (19/21, 90%; P < 0.01). These variables were independent of ewe breed. Blackface lambs were significantly more active than Suffolk lambs in the first 2 h after birth; ewe breed had little effect on lamb behaviour. Blackface lambs stood twice as quickly as Suffolk lambs after birth (13 min v. 24 min; P < 0.001), and were significantly more likely to suckle within the first 2 h after birth (92% v. 66%; P < 0.05). The behavioural retardation of Suffolk lambs may be a consequence of their birth difficulty which increases their likelihood of suffering birth trauma and hypoxia at parturition. Together, these factors may increase the probability of neonatal death in these lambs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1123-9
Number of pages7
JournalReproduction, Fertility and Development
Volume8
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Birth Weight
  • Embryo Transfer
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Labor, Obstetric
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Animal
  • Sheep
  • Sucking Behavior

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