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Growth pattern to the end of the mating period influences the reproductive performance of Merino ewe lambs mated at 7 to 8 months of age

Thompson, A.ORCID: 0000-0001-7121-7459, Bairstow, C., Ferguson, M., Kearney, G., Macleay, C., Thompson, H. and Paganoni, B. (2019) Growth pattern to the end of the mating period influences the reproductive performance of Merino ewe lambs mated at 7 to 8 months of age. Small Ruminant Research, 179 . pp. 1-6.

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Link to Published Version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smallrumres.2019.08.007
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Abstract

The reproductive performance of Merino ewe lambs is highly variable and generally poor in comparison to older ewes. In this study, we determined the impacts of growth pattern to the end of the mating period and sire genetics on the reproductive performance of Merino ewe lambs. Five hundred ewe lambs with full pedigree records were managed under commercial conditions from weaning and weighed 43.5 kg at the start of the mating period with an average age of 224 days. The ewe lambs were offered a moderate or high feed allowance to achieve target growth rates of 100 or 200 g/day during a 46-day mating period. They were then recombined and scanned for pregnancy status 60 days after the mating period. At the individual animal level, a 5 kg greater live weight at the start of the mating period increased reproductive rate (foetuses per 100 ewes joined) by about 20% (P < 0.001). Regardless of their live weight at the start of the mating period, gaining an extra 100 g/day of live weight during the mating period further increased their reproductive rate by about 20% (P < 0.001). Ewe lambs from sires with higher Australian Sheep Breeding Values for fat measured post-weaning achieved a higher fertility (P < 0.05) and reproductive rate (P < 0.01) regardless of feed allowance treatment. The effects of sire fatness was significant even when the sire breeding values for live weight measured post-weaning were included in the model. The effects of managing growth pattern and sire genetics were additive, so improving the reproductive performance of Merino ewe lambs mated at 7 to 8 months of age requires improving their feed allowance and rate of live weight gain until the end of the mating period and using sires with higher breeding values for fatness.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: Elsevier BV
Copyright: © 2019 Elsevier B.V.
United Nations SDGs: Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/50496
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