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Interactions between ewes and rams during mating can be used to predict lambing dates accurately, but not sire

Cunningham, K., Van Burgel, A., Kelman, K.R.ORCID: 0000-0002-4877-3112, Macleay, C.M., Paganoni, B.L. and Thompson, A.N.ORCID: 0000-0001-7121-7459 (2022) Interactions between ewes and rams during mating can be used to predict lambing dates accurately, but not sire. Animals, 12 (13). Article 1707.

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Ewes often lamb over extended periods so the level of nutrition during pregnancy and lambing may be suboptimal for ewes that conceived later during mating. Predicting lambing dates would allow cohorts of ewes with similar gestational ages to be managed more precisely to achieve targets for ewe nutrition, feed on offer, mob sizes and access to shelter to improve lamb survival. The interactions between ewes and rams during mating have been used to predict the time of oestrus and lambing dates successfully, but this has not been tested at a commercial scale. In this study, proximity sensors were used to measure interactions between inexperienced Merino ewes (n = 317) and experienced rams (n = 9) during a 27-day mating period under commercial production conditions. When the gestation length was assumed to be 150 days, 91% of lambing dates were predicted within ±6 days of the actual birth date of lambs and 84% of lambing dates were predicted within ±3 days. The use of proximity sensors during mating was an effective means of predicting lambing dates, and there was no significant difference in accuracy for single bearing verses multiple bearing ewes. However, DNA parentage data showed the ram corresponding with the maximum daily interactions ratio was the sire for only 16% of all progeny, suggesting they could not be used to indicate the sire of the progeny.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Centre for Animal Production and Health
Publisher: MDPI
Copyright: © 2022 by the authors
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