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Milk production and lamb growth in Ojinegra sheep breed

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Authors: R. Ripoll-Bosch, J. Álvarez-Rodríguez, I. Blasco, R. Picazo y M. Joy
Issue: 108-3 (298-311)
Topic: Animal Production
Keywords: Ewes, live weight, body condition score, blood metabolites, suckling lambs

The aim of this study was to characterize the productive potential of the Ojinegra sheep breed at two levels of body condition score (BAJA, ≤ 2.50 vs. ALTA, > 2.50), so that to prospect the production of suckling lambs (10-12 kg live weight at a threshold of 45 days old). Fifty-eight winter-lambing Ojinegra ewes were used. Ewes were stalled indoors and fed 1 kg of concentrate per day and cereal straw ad libitum. Live weight (PV) of ewes and lambs were registered weekly during lactation (6 weeks). Body condition score (CC) of ewes was measured at lambing and at weeks 3 and 6 of lactation. Twenty-two ewes were randomly selected to evaluate milk production and blood metabolites related with energy balance (nonesterified fatty acids, AGNE, and β-hydroxybutyrate, BHB). Ewes’ PV after lambing was affected by the week of lactation (P < 0.001), but not by ewes’ CC (49.0 ± 1.5 kg; P > 0.05). Blood AGNE and BHB contents were not affected by CC at lambing (P > 0.05), with mean values of 0.30 ± 0.06 and 0.54 ± 0.02 mmol/l for AGNE and BHB respectively. However, AGNE concentration decreased during lactation (P < 0.001). Week of lactation and CC at lambing had no effect on milk production (P > 0.05); with mean milk production of 813 g/day (mean standardized production 702 ml/day). The average daily gain (ADG) of lambs was not affected by ewes’ CC at lambing (148 vs. 154 ± 9 g/day, for ALTA vs. BAJA, respectively; P > 0.05). The average PV of lambs at weaning was 9.6 ± 0.3 kg. In conclusion, milk production of Ojinegra sheep breed is moderate and it might condition the attainment of target 10-12 kg live-weight for suckling lamb category at a maximum age of 45 days old. These results should be confirmed in future studies, assessing the maternal capacity of Ojinegra ewe under diverse management and feeding systems.

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