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Whole-body fatness is a good predictor of phenotypic feed and liveweight efficiency in adult Merino ewes fed a poor-quality diet

Blumer, S.E., Gardner, G.E., Ferguson, M.B. and Thompson, A.N. (2016) Whole-body fatness is a good predictor of phenotypic feed and liveweight efficiency in adult Merino ewes fed a poor-quality diet. Animal Production Science, 56 (4). pp. 789-796.

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Link to Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AN15217
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Abstract

Weight loss due to poor nutrition in adult ewes over summer-autumn is economically expensive due to immediate costs such as feed and labour but also due to ongoing costs to reproductive success and ewe health. We predicted that adult Merino ewes with a higher proportion of fat would be more efficient, both through lower intake and reduced weight loss. Four-year-old Merino ewes (n ≤ 64) were held in single pens and fed a chaff-based diet either ad libitum, with the aim of achieving liveweight maintenance, or a restricted amount to achieve liveweight loss of 100 g/day. Liveweight change and feed intake were measured, and residual liveweight change and residual feed intake were used to indicate efficiency. There was a difference of 2 MJ of metabolisable energy per day between the most efficient and least efficient ewes for residual feed intake, and a difference of 90 g per day between the most efficient and least efficient ewes for residual liveweight change. There was a significant association between blood plasma concentrations of leptin and both liveweight and feed efficiency, so that ewes with high concentrations of leptin had a lower daily intake, and/or lost less weight than did those with low concentrations of leptin. Managing adult Merino ewes to maximise fat-tissue accretion during spring via genetics and/or nutritional management could be a useful strategy to reduce feed requirements during summer-autumn because the ewes will be more efficient and have larger fat reserves to lose before achieving a lower critical limit.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Copyright: © CSIRO 2016.
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/30428
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