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Compared to grouped lambing, isolation favorize calmer animals and faster mother-lamb recognition but not lambs’ survival in tropical hair sheep farms

By Juan A. Escobedo-Canul, Pedro G. González-Pech, Carlos A. Sandoval-Castro, Ramón Cámara-Sarmiento, Luis Sarmiento-Franco

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Abstract

The aim of this study was to compare the mother-lamb bonding and lamb mortality observed on Pelibuey ewes lambing in isolation (IL) or group (GL) under tropical farm conditions. Each treatment was conformed with 16 adults multiparous Pelibuey ewes of similar weight (39.8 ± 8.01 kg) and body condition score (2.9 ± 0.5). Semi-controlled mating lasted 35 days, single or twin gestations were diagnosticated at day 50 by ultrasonography allocating similar proportion of twins in treatments. Similar space allowance (2.25 m2/ewe) and fed conditions were used during all pregnancy period. IL ewes lambed and remained after birth into 1.5 × 1.5 m individual pens, GL ewes remained and lambed in the same collective pen used during pregnancy. Observations were performed by focal sampling during (i) the 1st hour after lamb expulsion registering vocalizations, aggressions, suckling’ acceptance on ewes. Also, the latency to stand up and successfully suckling was recorded in lambs, (ii) 48 h later a two-choice recognition arena test, exposed animals simultaneously to their own mother/lamb and to a foreign-ones, (iii) afterwards, ewes’ reactions to the manipulation of their lambs by a foreign handler (maternal behavior score, MBS) were observed. Animals were weighted at the 1st hour post-partum and 30 days later. Twenty-seven (11 twins, 5 single) and 28 (12 twins, 5 single) lambs born at IL and GL respectively. The birth weight was 3.0 ± 0.4 kg on IL and 2.8 ± 0.4 kg on the GL (P = 0.119). During the 1st hour after lambing only the mean number of high-pitched bleats were different in both ewes (18.6 ± 1.2 vs 28.2 ± 1.8) and lambs (27.9 ± 1.2 vs 42.2 ± 1.3) of IL vs GL respectively (P = 0.001). At 48 h postpartum a faster recognition of their own mother/lamb was displayed by ewes (8 ± 0.4 vs 13.4 ± 1 s.) and lambs (8.8 ± 0.5 vs 15.3 ± 0.5 s.) on the IL vs GL respectively (P = 0.001). A MBS of 3 was observed on both treatments (P > 0.05), no difference was found on the daily change of weight in lambs (0.113 ± 0.01 vs 0.091 ± 0.01 kg, P = 0.068) and ewes (– 0.098 ± 0.01 vs -0.119 ± 0.01, P = 0.491) of IL vs GL respectively. The mortality was of 7.4 and 10.7 % on IL and GL with a similar risk in treatments (odds ratio = 1.06). It was concluded that in tropical hair sheep farms at the same animal space allowance, isolation lambing environment favorized calmer animals able to a faster recognition compared to grouped lambing animals, instead isolation at lambing did not reduced mortality nor improved lambs’ productivity.

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 232
Pages 105112
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2020.105112
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Tags
  1. Farms
  2. Lambs
  3. Sheep