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The potential interaction between ewe body condition score and nutrition during very late pregnancy and lactation on the performance of twin-bearing ewes and their lambs

  • Cranston, L.M. ;
  • Kenyon, P.R. ;
  • Corner-Thomas, R.A. ;
  • Morris, S.T.
  • Received : 2016.08.26
  • Accepted : 2017.02.05
  • Published : 2017.09.01

Abstract

Objective: The present study aimed to determine the impact of ewe body condition score (BCS) (over a range of 2.0 to 3.0) and nutritional treatments (consisting of differing herbage masses) during very late pregnancy and lactation and their potential interaction on the performance of twin-bearing ewes and their lambs to weaning. Methods: On day 142 of pregnancy, twin-bearing ewes with a BCS of 2.0, 2.5, or 3.0 were allocated to a "Moderate' or 'Unrestricted' nutritional treatment until day 95 of lactation (weaning). The nutritional treatments aimed to achieve average herbage masses of 1,200 to 1,300 kg dry matter (DM)/ha (Moderate) and 1,500 to 1,800 kg DM/ha (Unrestricted). Results: There were no three-way interactions between ewe BCS group, nutritional treatment and time for any ewe or lamb parameter. The nutritional treatments had no effect (p>0.05) on lamb birth or weaning weight. Lambs born to Moderate ewes had greater survival and total litter weight at weaning (p<0.05). Regardless of BCS group, Unrestricted treatment ewes had greater body condition and back-fat depth at weaning than Moderate treatment ewes (p<0.05). Ewes of BCS 2.0 group reared lighter lambs to weaning (p<0.05) and tended to have a lower total litter weight (p = 0.06) than BCS 3.0 group ewes. Conclusion: This study suggests farmers should aim to have all ewes with a BCS of 2.5 or 3 in late pregnancy for optimal lamb weaning performance. Furthermore, there is no benefit to lamb production of offering ewes pasture masses >1,200 kg DM/ha during very late pregnancy and lactation.

Keywords

Body Condition;Live Weight;Growth;Back Fat Depth;Survival

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