Forage allowances offered to pregnant ewes until middle and late gestation: Organ priorities on foetus development

Author: M. J. Abud, A. Bielli, J. Ithurralde, A. Freitas-de-Melo, A. Álvarez-Oxiley, Á. López-Pérez, R. Ungerfeld & R. Pérez-Clariget
Year: 2020
Issue: 3
Volume: 50
Page: 471 - 480

Effect of forage allowance before conception and until mid or late gestation was evaluated for effects on foetal and neonatal weights, carcass, nervous systems, metabolic and reproductive organ weights, body dimensions, and variation in intensity of the effects among organs. Effects of two forage allowances, HFA: high forage allowance (2.9 – 3.8 kg of dry matter (DM)/kg bodyweight (BW)) and LFA: low forage allowance (1.4 – 2.6 kg DM/kg BW) were evaluated from 23 days before conception until 70 or 122 days postpartum. On gestation day 70, nine ewes per treatment, each carrying one male foetus, were euthanized and their foetuses were removed. The foetuses were weighed, their carcass and organ weights were recorded, and their external genitalia dimensions were measured. Nine additional lambs per treatment were euthanized 12 hours after birth and the same data were recorded. Hearts from day 70 LFA foetuses were lighter, their external genitalia were smaller, and their foetal weight tended to be less than in HFA. Newborn lambs from LFA ewes had lighter carcasses, livers, kidneys, adrenal glands and testes, shorter penises, but higher brain to liver weight ratios than in HFA. The cerebellum, brain, and heart weights of LFA and HFA newborn lambs did not differ. Low forage allowance until late gestation influenced both foetal and lamb weights and affected organ weights differentially. Thus, the treatments induced differences in prioritization of nutrients, with the central nervous system receiving the highest priority, and carcass and external genitalia the lowest.

Keywords: foetal programming, intrauterine growth restriction, lambs, undernutrition
Read article