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Offering maternal composite ewes higher levels of nutrition from mid-pregnancy to lambing results in predictable increases in birthweight, survival and weaning weight of their lambs

Behrendt, R., Hocking Edwards, J.E., Gordon, D., Hyder, M., Kelly, M., Cameron, F., Byron, J., Raeside, M., Kearney, G. and Thompson, A.N.ORCID: 0000-0001-7121-7459 (2019) Offering maternal composite ewes higher levels of nutrition from mid-pregnancy to lambing results in predictable increases in birthweight, survival and weaning weight of their lambs. Animal Production Science, 59 (10). pp. 1906-1922.

Link to Published Version: https://doi.org/10.1071/AN18505
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Abstract

Management of nutrition during pregnancy for maternal composite ewes has the potential to improve lamb production and survival in prime lamb production systems but existing condition score (CS) guidelines developed for Merinos may not be appropriate for the optimum production of maternal ewes. To address this, three replicated experiments were conducted at two research sites in Victoria and one in Western Australia. Ewes (781-800 per site) were allocated to four CS treatments following pregnancy scanning (∼Day 50) and differentially fed to reach approximate targets of CS 2.4, 2.8, 3.2 and 3.6 by lambing. Single and multiple bearing ewes grazed together, and nutritional treatments were applied until the end of lambing after which ewes and lambs were aggregated into management groups containing all treatments. At lambing, maternal ewe liveweight had a range between treatments of 13.7-19.1 kg (average 16.4 kg) and CS varied by 1.1-1.5 of a CS (average 1.24). Across site analysis indicated that lamb birthweight and weaning weight increased with application of higher CS treatments (P < 0.001). There was also an improvement in survival of multiple born lambs with increasing CS at lambing (P < 0.001). Birthweight was significantly related to survival (P < 0.001) at all sites with no significant effect of birth type on lamb survival. Changes in birthweight and weaning weight could be predicted from ewe joining liveweight, ewe liveweight change to Day 90 and ewe liveweight change Day 90 to lambing. The coefficients derived for each of these effects were similar to those found in previous experiments examining Merino and crossbred Border Leicester Merino ewes. The optimum CS targets for multiple bearing maternal composite ewes may be higher than the industry recommended target for Merino ewes based on advantages in lamb survival and weaning weight.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Copyright: © 2019 CSIRO
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/43841
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