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Effects of body fatness at lambing and diet in lactation on body tissue loss, feed intake and milk yield of ewes in early lactation

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Cowan, R.T., Robinson, J.J., McDonald, I. and Smart, R. (1980) Effects of body fatness at lambing and diet in lactation on body tissue loss, feed intake and milk yield of ewes in early lactation. The Journal of Agricultural Science, 95 (3). pp. 497-514. ISSN 0021-8596

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Article Link: https://doi.org/10.1017/S002185960008789X


Thirty-six mature Finnish Landrace × Dorset Horn ewes, each suckling two lambs, were used in a comparative slaughter experiment to measure changes in body tissues during early lactation. Two levels of body fatness at lambing were established by giving ewes a complete diet containing 10 MJ metabolizable energy (ME) and 139 g crude protein (CP)/kg d.m. either close to requirements or ad libitum during the second half of pregnancy. In lactation half the ewes in each group were given a complete diet containing either 90 (diet A) or 60 (diet B) % milled hay ad libitum. These diets contained 7·9 and 9·2 MJ ME and 121 and 132 g CP/kg d.m. respectively.

Ewes fed at the two levels in pregnancy contained 8·4 and 19·6 kg chemically determined fat 5 days after lambing but had similar amounts of body protein, ash and water. Over 6 weeks of lactation ewes given diet A lost 60 and 69% of these weights of fat respectively, while ewes given diet B gained 5% and lost 30% respectively. Up to 26 g of body protein was lost daily from ewes given diet A but none from ewes on diet B. During early lactation the weight of the empty digestive tract increased while the weights of most other body components, particularly the carcass, decreased. The ratio of body energy change to live-weight change varied from 24 to 90 MJ/kg. Thus live-weight change did not accurately reflect relative or absolute changes in body energy.

Voluntary food intake was greater for ewes given the high-energy diet (B) than for those given diet A and was depressed in the fatter ewes. Differences in intake could be explained by the effects of body fatness and diet on the weight of gut contents. Milk yield was not significantly affected by body fat reserves but was higher on diet B than A. Fat content of milk was higher and protein content lower for ewes with the higher fat reserves at lambing.

As the contribution of fat loss to energy available for milk synthesis increased there appeared to be a reduction in the energetic efficiency of milk synthesis. A number of possible reasons for this are discussed.

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Animal culture > Sheep
Animal culture > Feeds and feeding. Animal nutrition
Live Archive:15 Feb 2024 02:08
Last Modified:15 Feb 2024 02:08

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