a1 Centre d’Expertise en Production Ovine du Québec, La Pocatière, QC, G0R 1Z0 Canada
a2 Département des Sciences Animales, Université Laval, Ste-Foy, QC, G1K 7P4 Canada
a3 Dairy and Swine Research and Development Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Sherbrooke, QC, J1M 1Z3 Canada
The aim of this study was to determine the effects of restricted feeding before puberty on reproduction, lactation and offspring growth performance in replacement ewe lambs over two breeding seasons. At weaning, 41 Dorset ewe lambs were assigned to one of three diets: an ad libitum control diet with medium-quality forage (MQF; 13.3% crude protein (CP), 1.81 Mcal metabolizable energy per kg, 42.8% ADF; diet A-MQF); a restricted diet with the same forage as A but less feed concentrate (diet R-MQF); or a high-quality forage (HQF) diet (14.8% CP, 2.15 Mcal ME/kg, 34.7% ADF; diet F-HQF). The quantity of concentrate offered to the group R-MQF and F-HQF ewe lambs was adjusted to obtain 70% of the control ewe lambs’ growth rate. The diets were offered for 75 days following weaning to cover the allometric phase of mammary gland development. Prepubertal restriction did not affect (P > 0.10) the gestation rate, number of lambs born or the body weight and body condition score of ewes at lambing or at the end of lactation. Ewes from groups R-MQF and F-HQF tended to produce more milk during their first lactation compared to those from group A-MQF (P = 0.07). During the second lactation, groups R-MQF and F-HQF had better standardized milk production than group A-MQF (P < 0.05), and group R-MQF produced more milk than group F-HQF (P < 0.05). Milk fat and protein content were not affected by treatments (P > 0.10) Fat and protein yield were affected by treatments only at the second lactation (P < 0.10 and P < 0.05, respectively). Lamb birth and weaning weights were not affected by prepubertal restriction of feeding in their mother (P > 0.10). However, the average daily gain of second breeding season lambs was higher for the R-MQF group than the F-HQF group (P < 0.05), and a similar trend was observed for total gain (P < 0.10). Restricted feeding before puberty does not impair future reproductive performance; however, it has a positive impact on lactation and on lambs’ growth performance.
(Received December 01 2009)
(Accepted May 03 2010)
(Online publication June 10 2010)