Received: August 26, 2016; Revised: December 4, 2016. Accepted: February 5, 2017. Published online February 23, 2017.
Objective: The present study aimed to determine the impact of ewe BCS (over a range of 2.0 to 3.0) and nutritional treatments (consisting of differing herbage masses) during very late pregnancy and lactation and their potential interaction on the performance of twin-bearing ewes and their lambs to weaning.
Method: On day [42 of pregnancy, twin-bearing ewes with a body condition score (BCS) of 2.0, 2.5 or 3.0 were allocated to a “Moderate’ or ‘Unrestricted’ nutritional treatment until day 95 of lactation (weaning). The nutritional treatments aimed to achieve average herbage masses of 1200-1300 kg DM/ha (Moderate) and 1500-1800 kg DM/ha (Unrestricted).
Results: There were no three-way interactions between ewe BCS group, nutritional treatment and time for any ewe or lamb parameter. The nutritional treatments had no effect (p>0.05) on lamb birth or weaning weight. Lambs born to Moderate ewes had greater survival and total litter weight at weaning (p<0.05). Regardless of BCS group, Unrestricted treatment ewes had greater body condition and back-fat depth at weaning than Moderate treatment ewes (p<0.05). Ewes of BCS 2.0 group reared lighter lambs to weaning (p<0.05) and tended to have a lower total litter weight (p = 0.06) than BCS 3.0 group ewes.
Conclusion: This study suggests farmers should aim to have all ewes with a BCS of 2.5 or 3 in late pregnancy for optimal lamb weaning performance. Furthermore, there is no benefit to lamb production of offering ewes pasture masses >1200 kgDM/ha during very late pregnancy and lactation.
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