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Improving the nutrition of Merino ewes during pregnancy increases the fleece weight and reduces the fibre diameter of their progeny's wool during their lifetime and these effects can be predicted from the ewe's liveweight profile

Thompson, A.N., Ferguson, M.B., Gordon, D.J., Kearney, G.A., Oldham, C.M. and Paganoni, B.L. (2011) Improving the nutrition of Merino ewes during pregnancy increases the fleece weight and reduces the fibre diameter of their progeny's wool during their lifetime and these effects can be predicted from the ewe's liveweight profile. Animal Production Science, 51 (9). pp. 794-804.

Link to Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AN10161
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Abstract

Nutrition of ewes during pregnancy can have permanent impacts on the production potential of their progeny. The hypothesis tested in the experiments reported in this paper was that improving the nutrition of Merino ewes during pregnancy and lactation increases the fleece weight and reduces the fibre diameter of their progeny's wool during their lifetime. In addition, that these effects on the progeny's wool production can be predicted from the ewe's liveweight profile. At sites in Victoria and Western Australia in each of 2 years, a wide range in the liveweight and condition score profiles of Merino ewes was generated by varying the amount of supplements fed from joining to Day 100 of pregnancy and the amount of feed on offer grazed from Day 100 to weaning. The site in Victoria was based on perennial pastures and included both single- and twin-bearing ewes whereas the site in Western Australia was based on annual pastures and included single-bearing ewes only. The production and characteristics of wool from the progeny were measured until 51 months of age at the site in Victoria and 33 months of age at the site in Western Australia. The nutritional treatments and the resulting changes in ewe liveweight had significant impacts on the fleece weight and to a lesser extent the fibre diameter of wool produced by their progeny, but there were no consistent effects on other characteristics of progeny fleece wool. The fleece weight of the progeny was related to the liveweight change during pregnancy of their mothers (P 0.05) and the relationships were similar for the two experiments at each site. At the site in Victoria, a loss of 10 kg in ewe liveweight between joining and Day 100 of pregnancy reduced fleece weight by ∼0.2 kg at each shearing until 51 months of age whereas gaining 10 kg from Day 100 of pregnancy to lambing had the opposite effect. The effect of changes in ewe liveweight during late pregnancy on the fleece weight of their progeny at each shearing was of similar magnitude at the site in Western Australia. When evident, the effect of the ewe liveweight profile on the fibre diameter of progeny wool was opposite to the effect on clean fleece weight and the effect of poor nutrition in early to mid pregnancy could be completely overcome by improving nutrition during late pregnancy. Twin-born and reared progeny produced ∼0.3 kg less clean wool at each shearing (P 0.001) that was 0.3-m broader (P 0.001) than that from single-born progeny at the site in Victoria. However, the effects of varying ewe nutrition and ewe liveweight change during pregnancy on fleece weight and fibre diameter of progeny wool were similar (P 0.05) for both single- and twin-born or reared progeny. Overall, these results supported our hypothesis and it is clear that the nutritional management of Merino ewes during pregnancy is important for optimal wool production from their progeny during their lifetime.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Copyright: © CSIRO 2011
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/5467
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