The use of melatonin to advance the onset of seasonal oestrus is potentially useful for early lamb production. A number of delivery systems for melatonin have been developed and this study evaluates an intraruminal soluble glass bolus under field conditions. Anoestrous, non-lactating mule and Dorset cross mule ewes were treated in late June with two types of bolus of different solubilities (melatonin 1, 'slow release' and melatonin 2, 'extra slow release'). Rams were introduced in mid-August for a target lambing pattern in mid-January. The percentage pregnancy/lambing rates were 80/78, 97/92 and 100/100 in the control, melatonin 1 and melatonin 2 groups, respectively. The number of lambs born per ewe put to the ram was significantly increased by treatment with melatonin 2 (P less than 0.05) from 1.17 to 1.64 in the mule ewes and 1.64 to 1.72 in the Dorset cross mule ewes. The melatonin containing soluble glass bolus is a novel and convenient method of reducing the number of barren ewes in an early lambing flock.
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