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Metabolic maturity at birth and neonate lamb survival: Association among maternal factors, litter size, lamb birth weight, and plasma metabolic and endocrine factors on survival and behavior


Miller, Dale and Blache, D and Jackson, RB and Downie, E and Roche, JR, Metabolic maturity at birth and neonate lamb survival: Association among maternal factors, litter size, lamb birth weight, and plasma metabolic and endocrine factors on survival and behavior, Journal of Animal Science, 88, (2) pp. 581-592. ISSN 0021-8812 (2010) [Refereed Article]

DOI: doi:10.2527/jas.2009-2170


This paper reports an investigation into metabolic and endocrine maturity in the neonate lamb and the relationships between litter size, birth weight, and maternal metabolic and endocrine variables on behavior at birth and survival over the first 72 h of life. Data were from multiparous, fine-wool Merino ewes (n = 150; equal numbers of single-lamb and twin-lamb bearing status) lambed on pasture after late gestational glucocorticoid treatments. Stepwise multiple regression analysis was used to investigate relationships between lamb survival, behavior, endocrinology, and physiology. Improved lamb viability at 72 h after birth was related to decreased chill indices at birth, singleton litter status, greater presuckling rectal temperature, increased ewe prelambing plasma ghrelin concentration, female sex, heavier birth weight, and decreased lamb presuckling plasma glucose concentration. Greater rectal temperatures were associated with heavier birth weight and gestation lengths shorter than 146 d, but no relationship with neonatal behavioral progression was evident. Presuckling glucose concentrations were greater in singletons and lambs born to ewes of greater BCS at d 95 of gestation, and lambs of heavier birth weight, but were also associated with decreased rectal temperatures. This might reflect a delay in glucose utilization during the adjustment from a fetal metabolic rate to a rate appropriate for cold external environments. Singleton lambs exhibited decreased presuckling plasma NEFA concentrations and were almost 8 times more likely to survive to 72 h than a twin-born lamb. Birth weight was lesser in lambs born to ewes with elevated plasma glucose and leptin concentrations before lambing and was positively related to ewe BW at d 95 of gestation and to length of gestation. Greater pre-suckling plasma ghrelin and leptin concentrations were measured for shorter gestation lengths. Neonate presuckling ghrelin concentrations above 650 pg/mL tended (P = 0.077) to be associated with improved lamb survival to 72 h. This was consistent with a curvilinear decline in neonate survival rates to 72 h after birth as time of latency to suckle increased. No relationship was observed between lamb plasma glucose concentrations and behavioral expression after lambing. Lambs exhibiting greater metabolic and endocrine maturity at birth had improved survival in a cold environment to 72 h after birth. The role of ghrelin in ovine fetal development warrants further investigation. © 2010 American Society of Animal Science.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Agricultural, Veterinary and Food Sciences
Research Group:Animal production
Research Field:Animal reproduction and breeding
Objective Division:Animal Production and Animal Primary Products
Objective Group:Livestock raising
Objective Field:Sheep for meat
UTAS Author:Miller, Dale (Dr Dale Miller)
UTAS Author:Downie, E (Ms Emma Downie)
UTAS Author:Roche, JR (Dr John Roche)
ID Code:56830
Year Published:2010
Web of Science® Times Cited:19
Deposited By:Agricultural Science
Deposited On:2009-05-29
Last Modified:2011-04-13

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