Winter-feeding systems for gestating sheep I. Effects on pre-and postpartum ewe performance and lamb progeny preweaning performance

A. E. Radunz, F. L. Fluharty, H. N. Zerby, S. C. Loerch

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25 Scopus citations


Mature pregnant crossbred ewes (n = 90) were used in a randomized complete block design and assigned to 1 of 3 winter-feeding systems differing in primary feed source: haylage (HL), limit-fed corn (CN), or limit-fed dried distillers grains (DDGS). Effects of these winter-feeding strategies on ewe and lamb performance were determined. Diets were formulated to meet or exceed NRC (1985) nutrient requirements during gestation and were fed from about d 60 of gestation until parturition. All ewes were fed a common diet postpartum. Every 2 wk during gestation, BW and BCS were collected and diets were adjusted to maintain similar BW gain for ewes fed CN and DDGS vs. HL. At 80 and 122 d of gestation, jugular blood samples were collected at 0, 3, 6, and 9 h postfeeding to measure plasma glucose, insulin, NEFA, and blood urea nitrogen concentrations. At birth, 6 lambs per treatment were killed to measure body composition. At 28±2 d postpartum, milk yield was measured. Lambs were weaned at 61±4 d of age. During mid gestation (d 60 to 115), BW gain of ewes was similar among treatments; however, at d 115 of gestation ewes fed HL had a smaller (P = 0.04) BCS than ewes fed DDGS or CN. Plasma glucose concentrations were greater (P ≤ 0.004) in ewes fed CN than in those fed HL or DDGS just before feeding on d 80 and 122 of gestation, whereas ewes fed DDGS vs. CN or HL had greater (P ≤ 0.04) plasma insulin concentrations at 3 h postfeeding. At parturition, ewe BW was greatest for DDGS, least for HL, and intermediate for CN (P ≤ 0.003). Ewes fed CN and DDGS had greater BCS at parturition than those fed HL, but by weaning, ewes fed DDGS had greater BCS (P ≤ 0.05) than those fed CN or HL. Birth BW tended (P = 0.09) to be heavier for lambs from ewes fed CN and DDGS than from those fed HL prepartum, but there was no difference (P = 0.19) due to ewe gestation diet on lamb BW at weaning. At birth, lamb muscle, bone, organ, and fat measures were not affected (P > 0.13) by treatment. Ewe milk production and lamb preweaning ADG were also similar (P > 0.44) among treatments. Prepartum dam winter feed source did not have detrimental effects on pre-or postpartum ewe performance, but altered prepartum maternal nutrient supply during gestation, which affected birth weight but not preweaning growth or mortality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)467-477
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of animal science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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