Effects of age and nutritional status at mating on the reproductive and productive traits in Suffolk sheep kept under permanent outdoor management system
This study examined the variability of reproductive and productive traits in Suffolk sheep (a commercial flock, n = 316 ewes) with regard to the dams’ age or the nutritional status of sheep at mating under a year-round outdoor management. Data were collected across a 3-year monitoring period (totally 655 observations). The fixed effects of dam’s age (dams grouped as: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 years and older), ewe’s live weight (LW; ewes grouped as: < 72 kg; 72–83 kg; > 83 kg), and backfat thickness at mating (BT; ewes grouped as: < 7.9 mm; 7.9–10.5 mm; > 10.5 mm) were evaluated. The dam’s age influenced reproductive and productive traits such that 2- and 6-year and older ewes reached the lowest values. Ewes with LW > 83 kg had significantly higher lambing rate (11.8%) compared to those with LW < 72 kg. The group of ewes with LW < 72 kg gave birth to a significantly lower number of live lambs in litter (–8.9%) in comparison with LW < 83 kg group. An increase (9.9%; P < 0.01) of total litter weight at birth or an increase (12.5%; P < 0.05) of total litter weight at 100 days of age were detected in LW > 83 kg group compared to LW < 72 kg group. BT > 10.5 mm ewes had by 8.9% lower lambing rate (P < 0.05), by 6.8% lower litter size (P < 0.05), by 14.5% lower number of live lambs in litter (P < 0.01), and by 8.6% lower total litter weight at birth compared to BT < 7.9 mm ewes. A significantly lower total litter weight at 100 days of age (–10.8%) and a significantly lower total litter gain from birth to 100 days of age (–11.5%) were detected in BT > 10.5 mm ewes in comparison to BT 7.9–10.5 mm ewes.
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