Effects of maternal genotype and behaviour on the behavioural development of their offspring in sheep

CM Dwyer*, AB Lawrence

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Significant breed differences in grazing, activity, social and other affiliative behaviours are known to exist in sheep. The roles of maternal and offspring genotype in determining the development of breed-specific behavioural differences in lambs were investigated using embryo-transfer. Two breeds of sheep (Suffolk and Scottish Blackface) were chosen as they differ markedly in social and affiliative behaviours. Sixty ewe-lamb pairs (15 each of the four combinations of ewe and lamb) were observed over the first 3 days after lambing, then when the lambs were aged between 2-5 months old and during the first 6 weeks after weaning. Lamb breed was the main factor affecting lamb activity at birth and play behaviour over the first postnatal days, with Blackface lambs being significantly more active than Suffolk lambs. Lamb sucking behaviour during this period, however, was significantly affected by ewe breed with a higher frequency of sucking interactions observed with Suffolk ewes. When out at grass the two breeds of ewe differed in their use of the field, with Blackface ewes using upland areas whilst Suffolk ewes were found almost exclusively in the lowland parts. Ewes also differed in their spatial relationship to their lamb, with Blackface ewes maintaining a closer relationship to their lamb than Suffolk ewes, regardless of lamb breed. Blackface ewes were also more active than Suffolk ewes and were more frequently observed grazing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1629-1654
Number of pages26
JournalBehaviour
Volume137
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2000

Keywords

  • maternal influence
  • lamb behaviour
  • breed
  • sheep
  • PONY EQUUS-CABALLUS
  • SUCKLING BEHAVIOR
  • SOCIAL INTERACTIONS
  • GRAZING BEHAVIOR
  • SEX-DIFFERENCES
  • BIGHORN SHEEP
  • MERINO SHEEP
  • MILK INTAKE
  • LAMBS
  • EWES

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