Over 3 years, a flock of Scottish Blackface ewes was managed so that one-third of the ewes received a high level of nutrition during the last 100 days of pregnancy (P), one-third received a high level of nutrition during the first 100 days of lactation (L) and one-third received a low level of nutrition as derived from a hill grazing over the same two periods (C). From these ewes, 496 ewe lambs were retained at weaning (19 to 22 weeks of age), balanced for treatment, year and birth type. At 6 months of age half of the lambs, similarly balanced, were transferred to an upland grazing system (U) for three breeding years. The other half was retained on the same hill grazing as their mothers for the same period (H). At the end of the study, all ewes were fed to reduce the range in body condition at a synchronized mating and ovulation rates were determined at slaughter.
Differences in live weight of ewes due to treatment between groups P, L and C had disappeared by 18 months. There were no pre-mating differences between treatments in live weight or body condition score except that ewes in group P had higher live weights than those in group C at condition scores greater than 2·75. There was little effect of grazing system on the differences between treatments in live weight or body condition score at 30 and 42 months but H ewes were heavier and fatter at 18 months of age. Ewe mortality was consistently less in group L than in groups P and C and on system H than on system U, although the differences were not statistically significant. Group L had fewer barren ewes than groups P and C, and barrenness was significantly greater in the U than the H system. Group C had proportionally more single than multiple births than either groups P or L.
At the end of the study there were no differences between the treatments in the proportion of ewes successfully mated at the final mating nor in their ovulation rates in relation to pre-mating body condition.
It is concluded that nutrition during either the lactation period or late pregnancy period can influence subsequent lifetime reproductive performance and that this was expressed through an effect on embryo or foetal loss since there were neither residual differences apparent in live weight or condition score nor in ovulation rate potential.