The majority of the studies on the feeding behaviour during pregnancy and lactation have been made in cows, being information on sheep scarce and generally limited to daily food intake (Bermúdez, 1989). During pregnancy and lactation variations do occur in nutrient requirements that markedly influence food intake. There is sometimes a small increase in intake in mid-pregnancy, and then a slight decline in the last few weeks before parturition is often observed (Forbes, 1970). This has been explained by the reduced ruminal function due to physical competition for abdominal space. The volume of the gravid uterus and abdominal fat contribute to compress the rumen, this effect being enhanced when bulky food is eaten. After lambing food intake always increases, but not in a way so as to match the high energy requirements of this stage. All these changes are expected to affect size and duration of meals, as well as the rate of eating.
The aim of this experiment was to study the variation in eating patterns along pregnancy and lactation of two Spanish sheep breeds: Churra, a dairy breed, and Merino. The influence of the presentation of feed was also studied.