Effects of different feeding systems on growth, fat accumulation and semen quality of Merino-type sheep

Author: A.M. du Preez, E.C. Webb & W.A. van Niekerk
Year: 2021
Issue: 5
Volume: 51
Page: 566 - 577

In South Africa, supplemental feeding is provided to improve the condition of breeding livestock before the animals are sold by the stud breeders to commercial farmers. This study aimed to evaluate the effects of different ram rearing systems on growth, fat accumulation and semen quality of Döhne Merino (DM), Merino (M) and South African Mutton Merino (SAMM) rams intended for breeding. The ram lambs were stratified according to weight and randomly allocated to one of three treatments, namely an extensive feeding treatment (ET), an extensive-intensive feeding treatment (EIT), and an intensive feeding treatment (IT). Rams in ET grazed for 200 days. Rams in EIT grazed for 73 days, followed by a concentrate diet for an additional 60 days. Rams in IT were fed the concentrate diet for 70 days. Scrotal neck fat was significantly less in IT rams compared with ET and EIT rams. Döhne Merino and M rams in EIT deposited significantly more scrotal fat than DM and M rams in ET. No adverse testicular pathology or differences in semen quality were observed. Regression analyses of pooled data showed extreme functional values for subcutaneous fat and total scrotal fat weight, which, when exceeded, may result in decreased semen volume, percentage normal spermatozoa and mass motility of spermatozoa. Sheep breeders should be cautious when feeding ram lambs in extensive-intensive systems for extended periods since this may affect semen quality adversely.

Keywords: over-conditioned, percentage normal spermatozoa, scrotal neck fat, semen volume
Read article