Grazing alternative herbages in lactation increases the liveweight of both ewe lambs and their progeny at weaning

R. A. Corner-Thomas, P. D. Kemp, S. T. Morris and P. R. Kenyon - Animal Production Science 2014, 54, 1741–1746

Type: Research Paper
Knowledge level: Advanced

Farm Table says:

The design of the present study allowed for the comparison of animal performance on Lucerne and Herb-mix. The cause of the between-year variation is unknown but the results indicated that for farmers whose climate and soil type allow, lucerne might be a better option for improving the weight of progeny of ewe lambs. However, that needs to be cautioned somewhat as there was a tendency for lower survival of progeny on the Lucerne treatment.

What is the problem?

Breeding ewe lambs is a management tool that can be used to increase farm profitability and lifetime ewe performance. However, there are potential negative impacts on the live weight of progeny at weaning and the live weight of the ewe lamb in the following season.

The aim of this 2-year study was to examine the impact of offering ewe lambs either a traditional ryegrass or white clover pasture (Pasture), Herb-mix or Lucerne throughout the lambing period and in lactation

What did the research involve?

The study compared, over 2 years, the performance of ewe lambs and their progeny after grazing on a ryegrass and white clover pasture, an herb mix or lucerne during lambing and lactation.

The study involved:

  • Romney ewe lambs (average age of breeding at 8-9 months)
  • Took place at Massey University in the North Island of New Zealand – classified as summer dry.
  • The number of ewe lambs per hectare was 10, 16 and 16 for
    the Pasture, Herb-mix and Lucerne treatments, respectively.
  • Ewe lamb liveweights and body condition scores were recorded at P137, L32 and L63.
  • During the lambing
    period, lambs were identified to their dam, ear-tagged and
    weighed within 12 h of birth. Lambs were reweighed at L32
    and L63.

What were the key findings?

  • During lactation in both years of the study, ewe lambs offered the Herb-mix or Lucerne treatments were heavier than those offered Pasture.
  • In addition, progeny of ewe lambs offered the Herb-mix or Lucerne treatment were also heavier in lactation than those born onto ryegrass white clover.
  • Interestingly, in one of the 2 years, the ewes and their progeny on the Lucerne treatment were heavier in lactation than those in the Herb-mix treatment.

Combined, these results indicated that offering either Herb-mix or Lucerne increases the performance of the young dam and her progeny above that found on a ryegrass and white clover sward.

Final Comment

The results of these two studies indicated that offering ewe lambs either lucerne or herb mix containing chicory, plantain and red and white clover are effective for increasing the live weight of both the ewe lamb and her progeny during lactation, in comparison to a ryegrass and white clover mix.

2014 - New Zealand - R. A. Corner-Thomas, P. D. Kemp, S. T. Morris and P. R. Kenyon - Animal Production Science 2014, 54, 1741–1746
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