Impact of change in body condition score in mid-late pregnancy in ewes fed a mixed diet on lamb survival and performance
Keywords:fodder crops, lamb survival, body condition score, gestation
The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect that body condition score of pregnant ewes fed on turnip and swede crops during mid-late gestation had on offspring survival and performance. Data were collected from 755 multiparous mixed-age ewes carrying 1–4 fetuses. Ewes grazed a turnip crop for 1 month prior to pregnancy scanning with supplementary ryegrass/clover baleage (~75 days gestation) followed by a swede crop with supplementary Lucerne baleage for 1 month following pregnancy scanning (to ~120 days gestation). Ewe body condition score (BCS) at mating, pregnancy scanning and pre-lambing, along with lamb survival and growth rates to weaning were recorded. Lamb survival from pregnancy scanning to tailing differed by litter size (P<0.001) with lower survival in litters with 3 or more lambs compared to singles and twins which did not differ. Improving BCS from pregnancy scanning to 120 days gestation had a positive effect on lamb survival irrespective of litter size and ewe age (P<0.001). Lamb survival in ewes ≥5 years of age, irrespective of litter size, was lower (P<0.001) compared to 2 or 3–4-year-old ewes, which in turn did not differ from each other. The key finding of the study was that loss in BCS from pregnancy scanning to 120 days gestation, negatively impacted on lamb survival, especially in ewes carrying 3 or more fetuses and in ewes >5 years of age irrespective of the number of fetuses carried. Furthermore, there was high variation in BCS change observed in both early and mid-pregnancy.
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