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Mating weight and condition score are both good predictors of lambing potential for young Merino and Border Leicester Merino ewes across different environments and years in Australia

Paganoni, B.L., Ferguson, M.B., Greeff, J.M., Kearney, G.A. and Thompson, A.N.ORCID: 0000-0001-7121-7459 (2022) Mating weight and condition score are both good predictors of lambing potential for young Merino and Border Leicester Merino ewes across different environments and years in Australia. Animal Production Science . Online Early.

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Free to read: https://doi.org/10.1071/AN20143
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Abstract

Context: Increasing mating weight or condition score increases the lambing potential of ewes (fetuses scanned per 100 ewes joined).

Aim: We hypothesised that in some years, condition score would contribute an additional effect to mating weight on lambing potential.

Methods: Border Leicester Merino and Merino ewes were mated naturally to Merino or Terminal rams between 2008 and 2013 at eight linked sites across Australia. Border Leicester Merino ewes were mated in their first year while Merino ewes were not mated until their second year. All ewes were mated for a second time as 2 year olds (Border Leicester Merinos) or 3 year olds (Merino). A total of 4270 Border Leicester Merino and 5788 Merino ewes were weighed and condition scored at mating and scanned for pregnancy.

Key results: Lambing potential increased by 3.1% per 1 kg increase in mating weight, compared to 1.3% for 1 and 2 year old Border Leicester Merinos respectively, and by 2.1% compared to 1.4% for 2 and 3 year old Merinos respectively (P < 0.05). Lambing potential increased by 27% compared to 13% per increase in condition score for 1 and 2 year old Border Leicester Merinos respectively, and by 29% compared to 25% for for 2 and 3 year old Merinos respectively (P < 0.05). All relationships were linear. When both mating weight and condition score were fitted together, mating condition score explained additional variation to weight in one instance of all the 160 possible breed (n = 2) × age (n = 2) × site (n = 8) × mating year (n = 5) combinations.

Conclusions: Mating weight and condition score increased the lambing potential of ewes linearly with differences due to ewe age, year and possibly ewe breed. Mating condition score rarely explained additional variation in lambing potential to weight in young Merino or Border Leicester Merino ewes.

Implications: If ewes are weighed at mating then condition scoring is of minimal extra benefit to predict lambing potential. Achieving the heaviest possible mating weights or highest condition score maximises the lambing potential of ewes in their first two mating years.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Centre for Animal Production and Health
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Copyright: © 2022 The Authors.
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/65260
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