Shearing dairy ewes may improve their fitness and heat tolerance during late pregnancy, with positive effects on lambs and lactation performances. To test this hypothesis, two Mediterranean breeds (MN, Manchega, n = 43; LC, Lacaune, n = 28), differing in lactation performances and fleece traits, were submit-ted to three shearing strategies: (i) shorn before breeding (SBB), (ii) shorn at day 100 of pregnancy (S100) and (iii) unshorn (CO). Ewes were bred in spring and gestated during summer. Fleece traits and respira-tory rate were measured on pregnant (107-121 days) resting ewes at different barn temperatures. Blood and colostrum were sampled at lambing. Ewes suckled their lambs (28 days) and were machine-milked until 180 days of lactation. Lamb and ewe weights, and condition score of the ewes, were recorded throughout the experiment. Milk yield was assessed during suckling (fortnightly) and milking (daily), and milk was sampled for composition (fortnightly). Fleece extension and wool weight at S100 were 13 and 45% greater in MN than in LC ewes, respectively, but the ewe's respiration rate at late pregnancy, between 20 and 25 degrees C, did not vary among shearing treatments nor breeds. Nevertheless, S100 ewes had a 37% lower respiration rate than SBB and CO ewes at 28 degrees C. At lambing, SBB and S100 ewes had 86% higher glycaemia than CO in MN, but LC ewes did not vary. Shearing treatment had no effect in plasma insulin, b-hydroxybutyrate or non-esterified fatty acids (NEFAs) at lambing in both breeds. Lamb's birth -weight and growth during suckling did not differ by shearing treatment in both breeds. Colostrum com-position and milk yield during suckling were not modified by shearing treatment in either breed, although S100 suckling milk composition increased in MN (protein and casein, 6%) and LC ewes (total solids, 8%; fat, 18%), compared to CO and SBB. No effects were detected in milk yield or composition dur-ing milking, but S100 tended to yield 28% more milk than CO in the LC ewes. The S100 treatment improved the body reserves in late pregnancy, when compared to CO and SBB in both breeds. In conclu-sion, shearing dairy ewes in late pregnancy was a recommendable management practice under summer conditions, because alleviated heat stress and improved the weight of the ewes, without detrimental effects on lambing and lactational performances, the last tending to increase milk yield in high-yielding dairy ewes.(c) 2022 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. on behalf of The Animal Consortium. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).
|Number of pages||11|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Feb 2023|
- Birth Weight
- Fatty Acids, Nonesterified
- Sheep, Domestic