Nutrition of ewes during pregnancy may affect the behaviour of ewes and their lambs in the first few days of life. In this experiment, triplet-bearing ewes were allocated ‘medium’ (pasture mass 800-1200 kg DM/ha) or ad-libitum nutrition (pasture mass 1500-2000 kg DM/ha) from day 93 until 114 of pregnancy. Both treatments included ewes of body condition score (BCS) ≤2.0, 2.5 or ≥3.0 as measured on day 92 of pregnancy. Behaviours of ewes and lambs were recorded in the paddock at tagging and a subset of lambs was subjected to a maternal-recognition test. Within the BCS≤2.0 ewe group, lambs born to ewes on the medium treatment emitted more high-pitched bleats and lower low-pitched bleats than lambs born to ewes on the ad-libitum treatment. In the paddock, there was no effect of ewe feeding treatment or BCS group on the median time taken for the lambs to stand, make contact with, suck from or follow their dam. In the maternal-recognition test, the median time taken for the lambs to reach the dam and the time the lambs spent with her was not affected by ewe BCS or feeding treatment. Overall the results indicate that feeding triplet-bearing ewes above pregnancy requirements has minimal effect on lamb behaviours. There is, however, some evidence to suggest that lambs born to ewes in the BCS≤2.0 group offered the medium treatments may have experienced a weaker ewe-lamb bond.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 77, Rotorua, 143-148, 2017
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