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Effects of restricted feeding of prepubertal ewe lambs on growth performance and mammary gland development

Villeneuve, L., Cinq-Mars, D., Lacasse, P. (2010). Effects of restricted feeding of prepubertal ewe lambs on growth performance and mammary gland development, 4(6), 944-950. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1751731110000170

Abstract

The aim of this study was to determine the effects of restricted feeding before puberty on growth performance and mammary gland development in replacement ewe lambs. At weaning, 72 Dorset ewe lambs were assigned to one of the three diets: an ad libitum control diet with medium-quality forage (MQF; diet A-MQF); a restricted diet with the same forage as A, but less feed concentrate (diet R-MQF); or a high-quality forage (HQF) diet (diet F-HQF). The quantity of concentrate offered to the group R-MQF and F-HQF ewe lambs was adjusted to obtain 70% of the control ewe lambs growth rate. The diets were offered for 75 days after weaning to cover the allometric phase of mammary gland development. During this period, average daily gain (ADG) was 223 and 229 g/day for groups R-MQF and F-HQF, respectively, compared to 305 g/day for group A-MQF (P < 0.0001). At the end of this period, 28 ewe lambs were slaughtered and their mammary gland was collected. Parenchymal fresh tissue weight tended to be higher for groups R-MQF and F-HQF compared to group A-MQF (P = 0.09). Stroma weight was greater (P < 0.05) for the group A-MQF ewe lambs than for those in the other treatments. Total DNA and total protein in parenchymal tissue tended to be greater for groups R-MQF and F-HQF (P = 0.09 and P = 0.07, respectively). Dry fat-free tissue was greater for groups R-MQF and F-HQF (P < 0.05). The remaining ewe lambs were fed the same haylage and barley diet until their first lambing. During this period, compensatory growth was observed. ADG was greater (P < 0.01) for groups R-MQF and F-HQF than for group A-MQF, and feed conversion was improved (P < 0.01) for groups R-MQF and F-HQF compared with the control, whereas the dry matter intake was similar for all groups. Live body weight, loin eye depth and backfat depth at breeding and around lambing were similar for all groups. The results of this study suggest that restricted feeding before puberty improves mammary gland development without compromising growth performance in ewe lambs. © 2010 The Animal Consortium.

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