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Influence of age at first lambing on reproductive and productive performance of Lacaune dairy sheep under an intensive management system

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 March 2011

Fernando Hernandez
‘Granja Cerromonte SL’ San Juan de la Encinilla, 05358 Ávila, Spain
Laura Elvira
TRIALVET S.L., C/ Encina, 22, 28721 Cabanillas de la Sierra, Madrid, Spain
Juan-Vicente Gonzalez-Martin
TRIALVET S.L., C/ Encina, 22, 28721 Cabanillas de la Sierra, Madrid, Spain Department of Animal Medicine and Surgery, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Universidad Complutense of Madrid (UCM), Avda Pta. de Hierro s/n, 28040, Madrid, Spain
Antonio Gonzalez-Bulnes
Department of Animal Reproduction, INIA, Avda Pta. de Hierro s/n, 28040 Madrid, Spain
Susana Astiz*
Department of Animal Reproduction, INIA, Avda Pta. de Hierro s/n, 28040 Madrid, Spain
*For correspondence; e-mail:


The present study investigated the effect of age at first lambing (AFL) on the performance of Lacaune sheep under intensive management conditions. Records from 3088 maiden sheep from one farm, for the period 2005–2010, were classified into four experimental groups: group E (early) ewes with AFL ⩽390 d; group M (middle) with AFL of 391–450 d; group L (late) with AFL of 451–510 d; and group A (aged) with AFL ⩾511 d. The higher the number of lactations, the lower were the yield/lactation and yield/Day in Milk. Ewes from group M up to 450 days old lambed 0·2 times more often and had 0·25 more lactations than the ewes from group L; in addition, the former group lambed 0·5 times more often and had 0·49 more lactations than ewes from group A. Group A had the lowest yield per lifetime; the yield followed the sequence: group E (1032 l) >group M (1051 l) >group L (989 l) > group A (859 l) (P<0·0001). Yield/lactation was affected by AFL during the first three lactations (P<0·05). Group E produced significantly less milk in the first lactation than ewes from groups M, L and A. AFL correlated negatively with the number of lactations in life (r= −0·26; P<0·0001) and with total milk yield (r= −209; P<0·0001). The productive performance between the ewes that reached puberty early (n=404) or late (n=2684) in life were different (P<0·0001) with the early sheep having a lower total milk yield (591 v. 1073 l, P<0·0001). In conclusion, the current study indicates that the optimal AFL for the Lacaune breed under an intensive dairy system is between 390 and 450 d. Ewes with AFL earlier than 390 d or later than 450 d are likely to have a shorter productive life and a lower lifetime milk production.

Research Article
Copyright © Proprietors of Journal of Dairy Research 2011

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