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Lower reproductive rate and lamb survival contribute to lower lamb marking rate in maiden ewes compared to multiparous ewes

Hutchison, D., Clarke, B.E., Hancock, S.ORCID: 0000-0002-4115-4642, Thompson, A.N.ORCID: 0000-0001-7121-7459, Bowen, E. and Jacobson, C.ORCID: 0000-0001-9427-1941 (2022) Lower reproductive rate and lamb survival contribute to lower lamb marking rate in maiden ewes compared to multiparous ewes. Animals, 12 (4). Article 513.

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Abstract

Suboptimal reproductive performance of maiden (primiparous) ewes remains a source of inefficiency for the Australian sheep industry. However, the extent and causes of the poorer reproductive performance of maiden ewes on Australian sheep farms are not well understood. Here, we show the reproductive performance of maiden ewes relative to their multiparous counterparts on the same farms across Australia using a cohort survey. The difference in marking rate for non-Merino maiden ewe lambs compared to multiparous ewes was 58% (74 vs. 132%; p < 0.001), and this was attributable to a 50% difference in reproductive rate (109 vs. 159%; p < 0.001) and 16% difference in lamb survival to marking (67 vs. 83%; p < 0.001). The difference in marking rate for maiden Merino two-tooth ewes lambing at approximately 2 years-of-age compared to mature multiparous ewes was 22% (80 vs. 102%; p < 0.001) and this was attributable to a 24% difference in reproductive rate (108 vs. 132%; p < 0.001) and 3% difference for lamb survival (75 vs. 78%; p < 0.05). Positive correlations for reproduction traits (reproductive rate, lamb survival and marking rate) between maidens and multiparous ewes were observed for maiden Merino two-tooth ewes (p < 0.001), but these correlations were weak or non-existent for non-Merino ewe lambs. Strategies to improve both reproductive rate and lamb survival can address the poorer and more variable reproductive performance of maiden ewes.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Centre for Animal Production and Health
Publisher: MDPI
Copyright: © 2022 by the authors
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/64049
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