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Type: Journal article
Title: Fertility in South Australian commercial Merino flocks: relationships between reproductive traits and environmental cues
Author: Kleemann, D.
Walker, S.
Citation: Theriogenology, 2005; 63(9):2416-2433
Publisher: Elsevier Science Inc
Issue Date: 2005
ISSN: 0093-691X
Abstract: High levels of reproductive loss have been reported in commercial Merino flocks (n=68) from the cereal/livestock and high rainfall zones in South Australia (Kleemann DO, Walker SK. Fertility in South Australian commercial Merino flocks: sources of reproductive wastage. Theriogenology 2005;63:2075-88). Relationships between reproductive traits (estrus, ovulation, fertility, fecundity, lamb survival) and environmental end points (liveweight, condition score, temperature at mating, chill index at lambing) are reported in this paper. They were analysed within season of mating (October to December; January to March) and age of ewe (maiden as 1.5-year-old, mature as older). Incidence of estrus was positively related (P<0.05) to condition score in the October to November interval. Return rate to service was positively (P<0.05) influenced and fertility was negatively (P<0.05) influenced by the number of days ambient temperatures were > or =32.0 degrees C during mating, indicating that high ambient temperatures may reduce embryo survival. Liveweight and, to a lesser extent, condition score, accounted for significant proportions of variation associated with ovulation rate (39.3 and 12.7%, respectively). Ovulations per 100 ewes increased by 1.8 per kg increase in liveweight over all flocks. Ovulatory response to liveweight increased (P<0.01) from the October to December to the January to March period of mating (1.5 versus 3.4 ovulations per kg, respectively). Overall, a flock's fertility and fecundity increased by 0.27 and 1.42% per kg increase in liveweight, respectively. Reproductive wastage from partial failure of multiple ovulations (PFMO) was positively related to liveweight (P<0.01) and ovulation rate (P<0.001). Survival of single lambs was positively and curvilinearly related to maternal liveweight and condition score measured in late pregnancy (P<0.05). Linear relationship of these variables for twin lamb survival was significant for condition score only. Single and twin lamb survival were also positively related to liveweight and condition score at mating (P<0.05). We concluded that nutritional cues have a major impact on reproductive traits in commercial Merino flocks in South Australia; it sets the potential number of lambs (ovulation rate) and influences survival of lambs as early as at mating. Indications are that high ambient temperatures may influence embryo survival. It is recommended that future research efforts focus on: (a) prenatal nutritional influences on the physiology of mother-offspring behaviours at birth; and (b) possible peri-conceptional dietary factors controlling embryo loss resulting from partial failure of twin ovulations, to improve reproductive efficiency in the Merino.
Keywords: Animals; Sheep; Pregnancy Outcome; Environment; Reproduction; Estrus; Fertility; Ovulation; Pregnancy; Australia; Female
RMID: 0020051333
DOI: 10.1016/j.theriogenology.2004.09.052
Appears in Collections:Obstetrics and Gynaecology publications

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