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The effect of nutrition and body condition of triplet-bearing ewes during late pregnancy on the behaviour of ewes and lambs

  • Gronqvist, Gabriella V. (International Sheep Research Centre, Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences, Massey University) ;
  • Corner-Thomas, Rene A. (International Sheep Research Centre, Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences, Massey University) ;
  • Kenyon, Paul R. (International Sheep Research Centre, Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences, Massey University) ;
  • Stafford, Kevin J. (International Sheep Research Centre, Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences, Massey University) ;
  • Morris, Stephen T. (International Sheep Research Centre, Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences, Massey University) ;
  • Hickson, Rebecca E. (International Sheep Research Centre, Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences, Massey University)
  • Received : 2017.12.08
  • Accepted : 2018.03.13
  • Published : 2018.12.01

Abstract

Objective: Triplet-born lambs are less likely to survive to weaning than twin-born or single-born lambs. Appropriate ewe-lamb bonding behaviours and lamb vigour behaviours are necessary for survival of lambs. The aim of this experiment was to determine whether maternal nutrition during late pregnancy influenced behaviour of the ewe and her lambs soon after birth, and to determine whether mid-pregnancy body condition score (BCS) influenced any behavioural response. Methods: The experiments included ewes that were in BCS 2.0, 2.5, or 3.0 in mid-pregnancy and were fed either ad libitum or to pregnancy-maintenance requirements in late-pregnancy (day 115 until 136 in experiment one, and day 128 until 141 in experiment two). The time taken for lambs to stand, contact dam, suck from dam and follow dam was recorded three to 18 h after birth. The number of high- and low-pitched bleats emitted by the ewe and lambs was recorded, along with maternal behaviour score (MBS) of the ewe. Lambs in experiment two underwent a maternal-recognition test at 12 or 24 h. Results: There were significant effects of feeding treatment on bleating behaviour of ewes and lambs, but these were inconsistent among BCS groups and between experiments. Lamb vigour behaviours were not affected by feeding treatment. In experiment one, there was no effect of feeding treatment or BCS on MBS, but in experiment two, ewes in BCS3 in mid-pregnancy had greater MBS than ewes in BCS2 in mid-pregnancy (MBS 3.1/5 vs MBS 2.1/5; p<0.05). Conclusion: Given there were no repeatable effects on behaviour of ewes and lambs, ad libitum feeding rather than feeding for pregnancy-maintenance requirements cannot be used to improve behaviours soon after birth of triplet-bearing ewes in BCS 2-3 and their lambs in extensive pastoral conditions.

Keywords

Triplet Lambs;Late Pregnancy Nutrition;Body Condition Score;Ewe and Lamb Behaviour;Vocalisation

Acknowledgement

Supported by : Beef + Lamb New Zealand, Massey University

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