Shearing during pregnancy û review of a policy to increase birthweight and survival of lambs in New Zealand pastoral farming systems
New Zealand Veterinary Journal, Volume 51, Issue 5, pp 200-207, Oct 2003
Article class: Review Article
Subject Terms: Animal production/wastage, Bodyweight/liveweight/condition score, Harvesting/processing, Husbandry/husbandry procedures, Integument/skin/wool/hair/fur/feather, Mortality/morbidity, Neonatal, Pregnancy, Reproduction, Reproduction - femaleTaylor and Francis
AbstractOver the past decade, lambing percentages have risen in conjunction with a rise in the percentage of multiple lambs born. Multiple-born lambs are smaller than their singleton counterparts and are particularly susceptible to starvation-exposure. Any technique that can increase the birthweight or thermoregulatory capability, or both, of otherwise lightweight lambs has the potential to substantially increase survival of multiple-born lambs.
In the United Kingdom under housed conditions, shearing during pregnancy has been shown to increase both the birthweight and thermoregulatory capability of newborn lambs. However, shearing during pregnancy under pastoral conditions has failed to consistently affect the newborn lambs thermoregulatory capability. In contrast, under New Zealands pastoral conditions shearing during pregnancy has been found to increase birthweight, but results have been inconsistent in both magnitude and birth-rank specificity. Increase in feed intake by the dam, types of shearing comb used and changes in gestation length do not explain the variation observed. When studies involving shearing during pregnancy are collated it becomes apparent that there are two criteria that must be met to achieve a birthweight response. Firstly, the dam must have the potential to respond and secondly, the dam must have the means to respond.
Any increase in lamb survival through shearing during pregnancy would be predominantly through an increase in birthweight of otherwise lightweight lambs. However, in the few studies conducted to date, an increase in birthweight has not resulted in a statistically significant increase in survival. For an increase in birthweight to have a positive effect on lamb survival, lambs must be otherwise destined to be born within a birthweight range in which survival rate is below optimum (<4.0 kg), and the increase in birthweight observed must move a significant proportion of otherwise lightweight lambs into a higher range of survival rate.
KEY WORDS: Shearing during pregnancy, lamb survival, lamb birthweight
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