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Effect of pasture allowance during pregnancy on ewe-lamb interactions

A. Freitas-de-Melo, R. Ungerfeld, M. J. Hötzel, M. J. Abud, A. Alvarez-Oxiley, A. Orihuela, J. P. Damián, R. Pérez-Clariget

IT has been suggested that undernutrition of ewes during pregnancy results in lighter lambs that take longer to stand up and suckle less frequently than well-nourished animals. Such ewes also spend less time licking their lambs and therefore form a poorer attachment to them compared to well-nourished ewes. This study investigated whether the level of pasture allowance from before conception until late pregnancy affects ewe-lamb behaviours at birth, and if those behaviours differ according to the sex of the lambs.

Two experiments were performed in which 96 ewes were assigned to one of two nutritional regimes: high pasture allowance (10 to 12 kg of dry matter/100 kg bodyweight/day) or low pasture allowance (5 to 8 kg of dry matter/100 kg bodyweight/day). In the first experiment, the regime began 23 days before artificial insemination and ended at 122 days of gestation, while the second experiment started 40 days before artificial insemination and ended at 105 days of gestation. The body condition score and bodyweight of the ewes were recorded at lambing. At lambing, trained observers continuously monitored ewe-lamb behaviours and also recorded the time from birth for the ewe to lick the lamb, for the …

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