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Asian-Australas J Anim Sci > Accepted Articles
DOI: https://doi.org/10.5713/ajas.19.0479    [Accepted] Published online November 12, 2019.
Behaviour of twin- and triplet-born lambs and their dam 3 to 18 hours after birth is not a useful predictor of lamb survival to weaning
G. V. Gronqvist1, R. E. Hickson1  , P. R. Kenyon1  , S. T. Morris1  , K. J. Stafford1  , R. A. . Corner-Thomas1,* 
School of Agriculture and the Environment, Massey University, Palmerston North 4410, New Zealand
Correspondence:  R. A. . Corner-Thomas,Email: r.corner@massey.ac.nz
Received: 12 June 2019   • Revised: 23 August 2019   • Accepted: 12 June 2019
An experiment was designed to determine if behaviour traits expressed by twin- and triplet-bearing lambs and their dams at 3-18 hours of age (after the immediate ewe-lamb bonding had occurred) were associated with lamb survival to weaning.
The behaviour of twin and triplet lambs and their dams was assessed in the paddock at 3-18 hours after birth. Observations were made of the number of high- and low-pitched bleats, time to stand, make contact with dam, suck from dam and follow dam were recorded for each lamb. The maternal behaviour score of the each dam was assessed. A random sub-sample of lambs were assessed during a maternal-recognition test at 12 or 24 hours of age. Traits included time spent standing, sitting, walking, time taken to reach the ewes and time spent with the ewes as well as the number of high- and low-pitched bleats emitted by the lamb.
In the paddock, for each additional second required for twin-born lambs to follow their dam, lambs were 1.004 (95% CI 1.000-1.008) times more likely to survive to weaning (P<0.05). The opposite relationship, however, was seen in triplet lambs. For each additional second required for triplet-born lambs to follow their dam, lambs were 0.996 (95% CI 0.993-0.999) times as likely to survive to weaning (P<0.05). During the maternal recognition test (MRT), twin-born lambs were 0.989 (95% CI 0.979-1.000) times as likely to survive to weaning for every additional second they took to reach the contact zone (P<0.05). Similarly, triplet-born lambs were 0.994 (95% CI 0.989-0.999) as likely to survive for every additional second they took to reach their dam (P<0.05).
All ewe behaviours and the majority of lamb paddock and test behaviours were not associated with the survival of twin- or triplet-born lambs and, therefore, are of little use as indicators of lamb survival to weaning.
Keywords: Twin; Triplet; Maternal Recognition; Survival; Behaviour
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