Contrast radiography (barium sulphate suspension fed by stomach tube) was used to assess abomasal profile area (a reflection of tone in the abomasal wall) and the rate of abomasal emptying in healthy lambs aged four to 144 hours and in lambs affected by watery mouth. In healthy lambs abomasal profile area increased from 15.1 +/- 0.56 cm2/kg at four hours of age to 23.1 +/- 1.07 cm2/kg at 24 to 48 hours (P less than 0.001). There was no change up to 48 to 72 hours but after this age there was a substantial decrease to 12.8 +/- 0.76 cm2/kg at 120 to 144 hours (P less than 0.001). The rate of abomasal emptying decreased as abomasal profile area increased. Complete emptying of the abomasum was observed within three hours of feeding in the majority of lambs aged four hours (seven out of eight) and 120 to 144 hours (13 out of 16) but only in a minority of lambs aged 24 to 48 hours (one out of 11). In lambs affected by watery mouth (mean age [+/- se] 33 +/- 2.8 hours, n = 34) abomasal profile area was greater and the rate of abomasal emptying was slower than in healthy lambs aged 24 to 48 hours. These findings confirm the previous suspicion that watery mouth is associated with an impairment of gut motility. Abomasal emptying time was prolonged in lambs aged four hours when either ewe or cow colostrum was included with the contrast medium. A similar effect was observed in lambs aged 24 to 48 hours when cow colostrum was included. The castration of lambs aged four hours with rubber rings immediately before the administration of contrast medium had no effect on the rate of abomasal emptying.
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