In two experiments carried out in the autumn of 1971 and 1972 (treatment prefixes 1 and 2 respectively), 84 Finn x Dorset ewes found by X-ray to carry from 1 to 4 foetuses were individually fed during the last 6 weeks of gestation either: 1A, ad libitum; 1H and 2H, 33 kcal M/kg ewe live weight+365 kcal per ME/kg foetus (anticipated birth weight); 1M, 80%; and 2L, 50% of the total energy fed to treatments 1H and 2H. The amounts given remained constant during the experimental period. The method of feeding according to foetal number within treatments, attempted to standardize the nutritional state within treatments.
All ewes (except those on 2L which remained constant) gained 6 to 8 kg live weight during the last 6 weeks of gestation and lost 8 to 10 kg at parturition. The birth weight of lambs was not affected by the range of energy (2·3 to 4·4 Meal ME/ewe per day) consumed during the last 6 weeks of gestation.
Plasma concentrations of free fatty acids (FFA), glucose and ketone bodies were determined weekly. The mean FFA levels were significantly higher in the low energy treatment groups than the high ones.
The present data indicated that if there is little change in body weight i n the early stages of pregnancy a 65 kg ewe bearing twin lambs, will require about 4 Meal ME/day during the last 50 days of gestation t o prevent a rise in plasma FFA concentration or loss of weight over the gestation period.