Effects of shearing 2 breeds of dairy ewes during lactation under mild winter conditions

A. Elhadi, A. A.K. Salama, X. Such, E. Albanell, P. G. Toral, G. Hervás, P. Frutos, G. Caja

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearch

2 Citations (Scopus)


The lactational effects of shearing (CO, control unshorn; SH, shorn) were investigated in 48 dairy ewes of 2 breeds (Lacaune, LC, n = 24; Manchega, MN, n = 24) having a similar stage of lactation (120 + 6 d in milk) and body frame (65.1 +/- 1.5 kg of body weight and 2.4 +/- 0.1 body condition score), but differing in fleece and milk production. Ewes were penned indoors, adapted to the diet (alfalfa hay ad libitum and fixed amount of concentrate), and allocated for 30 d in 8 balanced groups to which the experimental treatments were applied. All ewes were sheared on the same day. Feed intake by pen and milk yield by ewe were recorded daily. Individual samples of milk (d -3, 3, 5, 7, and 15) and blood (d -7, 3, 7, and 15) were collected, as well as body weight and body condition score measured (d -15, 0, and 15), related to shearing. Pooled milk samples per pen were also collected before and after shearing for milk fatty acid analysis (d -3 and 15). Average temperatures in the barn before (12.6 +/- 0.7 degrees C) and after (13.7 +/- 0.4 degrees C) shearing were mild. Fleece was heavier in MN than in LC (1.04 +/- 0.10 vs. 0.75 +/- 0.09 kg/ewe) and tended to cover more body surface in MN than in LC ewes. Responses to shearing varied according to breed, the rectal temperature after shearing only decreasing significantly in the MN (-0.36 +/- 0.09 degrees C). Feed intake increased in the LC-SH (5%), when compared with LC-CO, but did riot vary in the MN ewes. Ingestibility of the alfalfa hay, expressed as filling units for sheep and monitored in 2 groups of 6 dry and unshorn ewes of each breed (73.0 +/- 2.5 kg of body weight and 3.1 +/- 0.2 body condition score), was constant throughout the experiment (0.99 +/- 0.03 filling units for sheep/kg of dry matter). Regarding milk production, LC-SH ewes yielded 10% more milk (1.38 +/- 0.06 vs. 1.52 +/- 0.05 kg/d) than LC-CO ewes, but no differences were detected in MN ewes (0.74 + 0.03 kg/d, on average). No differences in the concentration of major milk components by effect of the shearing treatment were detected in either breed, but LC-SH ewes yielded 9% more milk protein than did LC-CO ewes. No relevant effects of shearing were detected on milk fatty acid profiles, although MN ewes showed lower C4:0, C6:0, C14:0, trans-11 and trans-12 C18:1 contents than did LC ewes. Moreover, no changes by effect of shearing were detected in plasma glucose, non-esterified fatty acids, cortisol, or insulin values in either breed, or in body weight or body condition score. In conclusion, shearing dairy ewes during lactation under mild winter conditions is a suitable management option that may increase feed intake and milk production, without deleterious effects on milk composition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1712-1724
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019


  • dairy sheep
  • fatty acid
  • milk composition
  • shearing
  • Lactation/physiology
  • Sheep/genetics
  • Eating
  • Body Weight
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified/metabolism
  • Milk/chemistry
  • Animals
  • Animal Husbandry
  • Fatty Acids/analysis
  • Female
  • Milk Proteins/analysis
  • Seasons


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