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Breed differences in the expression of maternal care at parturition persist throughout the lactation period in sheep

By Helena E. Pickup, Cathy M. Dwyer

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Abstract

Maternal care plays an important role in the survival of offspring in mammals. In the ewe initial maternal care is expressed by nurturing the young and formation of an exclusive olfactory bond with the lamb. After the neonatal period, maternal care is associated with co-operation with sucking interactions, maintenance of a close ewe–lamb relationship, communication with lambs, vigilance and a tendency to seek absent lambs. Two breeds of ewe, Suffolk and Scottish Blackface, have previously been shown to differ in their expression of early maternal care, and in lamb survival. It was hypothesised that these differences in the expression of maternal behaviour would persist throughout the lactation period and continue to be expressed in other aspects of maternal care. The maternal behaviour of 32 primiparous ewes (18 Suffolk, 14 Blackface) was observed from birth until weaning at 12 weeks of age. As shown previously, Blackface ewes spent more time grooming their lambs than Suffolk ewes (P

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 132
Issue 1
Pages 33-41
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2011.03.010
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Tags
  1. Breed differences
  2. Lactation
  3. Maternal behavior
  4. Sheep