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An ever-expanding scientific literature highlights the impact of the prenatal environment on many areas of biology. Across all major farmed species, experimental studies have clearly shown that prenatal experiences can have a substantial impact on outcomes relevant to later health, welfare and productivity. In particular, stress or sub-optimal nutrition experienced by the mother during pregnancy has been shown to have wide-ranging and important effects on how her offspring cope with their social, physical and infectious environment. Variation in the conditions for development provided by the reproductive tract or egg, for instance by altered nutritional supply or hormonal exposure, may therefore explain a large degree of variation in many welfare- and productivity-relevant traits. The scientific literature suggests a number of management practices for pre-birth/hatch individuals that could compromise their later welfare. Such studies may have relevance for the welfare of animals under human care, depending on the extent to which real life conditions involve exposure to these practices. Overall, the findings highlight the importance of extending the focus on animal welfare to include the prenatal period, an aspect which until recently has been largely neglected.
In beef cattle, feeding behaviour and activity are associated with feed efficiency and methane (CH4) emissions. This study aimed to understand the underlying traits responsible for the contribution of cattle behaviour to individual differences in feed efficiency, performance and CH4 emissions. A total of 84 steers (530±114 kg BW) of two different breeds (crossbreed Charolais and Luing) were used. The experiment was a 2×2×3 factorial design with breed, basal diets (concentrate v. mixed) and dietary treatments (no additive, calcium nitrate or rapeseed cake) as the main factors. The individual dry matter intake (DMI; kg) was recorded daily and the BW was measured weekly over a 56-day period. Ultrasound fat depth was measured on day 56. Based on the previous data, the indexes average daily gain, food conversion and residual feed intake (RFI) were calculated. The frequency of meals, the duration per visit and the time spent feeding per day were taken as feeding behaviour measures. Daily activity was measured using the number of steps, the number of standing bouts and the time standing per day. Agonistic interactions (including the number of contacts, aggressive interactions, and displacements per day) between steers at the feeders were assessed as indicators of dominance. Temperament was assessed using the crush score test (which measures restlessness when restrained) and the flight speed on release from restraint. Statistical analysis was performed using multivariate regression models. Steers that spent more time eating showed better feed efficiency (P=0.039), which can be due to greater secretion of saliva. Feeding time was longer with the mixed diet (P<0.001), Luings (P=0.009) and dominant steers (P=0.032). Higher activity (more steps) in the pen was associated with poorer RFI, possibly because of higher energy expenditure for muscle activity. Frequent meals contributed to a reduction in CH4 emissions per kg DMI. The meal frequency was higher with a mixed diet (P<0.001) and increased in more temperamental (P=0.003) and dominant (P=0.017) steers. In addition, feed intake was lower (P=0.032) in more temperamental steers. This study reveals that efficiency increases with a longer feeding time and CH4 emissions decrease with more frequent meals. As dominant steers eat more frequently and for longer, a reduction in competition at the feeder would improve both feed efficiency and CH4 emissions. Feed efficiency can also be improved through a reduction in activity. Selection for calmer cattle would reduce activity and increase feed intake, which may improve feed efficiency and promote growth, respectively.
Adding nitrate to or increasing the concentration of lipid in the diet are established strategies for reducing enteric methane (CH4) emissions, but their effectiveness when used in combination has been largely unexplored. This study investigated the effect of dietary nitrate and increased lipid included alone or together on CH4 emissions and performance traits of finishing beef cattle. The experiment was a 2×4 factorial design comprising two breeds (cross-bred Aberdeen Angus (AAx) and cross-bred Limousin (LIMx) steers) and four dietary treatments (each based on 550 g forage : 450 g concentrate/kg dry matter (DM)). The four dietary treatments were assigned according to a 2×2 factorial design where the control treatment contained rapeseed meal as the main protein source, which was replaced either with nitrate (21.5 g nitrate/kg DM); maize distillers dark grains (MDDG, which increased diet ether extract from 24 to 37 g/kg DM) or both nitrate and MDDG. Steers (n=20/dietary treatment) were allocated to each of the four treatments in equal numbers of each breed with feed offered ad libitum. After 28 days adaptation to dietary treatments, individual animal intake, performance and feed efficiency were recorded for 56 days. Thereafter, CH4 emissions were measured over 13 weeks (six steers/week). Increasing dietary lipid did not adversely affect animal performance and showed no interactions with dietary nitrate. In contrast, addition of nitrate to diets resulted in poorer live-weight gain (P<0.01) and increased feed conversion ratio (P<0.05) compared with diets not containing nitrate. Daily CH4 output was lower (P<0.001) on nitrate-containing diets but increasing dietary lipid resulted in only a non-significant reduction in CH4. There were no interactions associated with CH4 emissions between dietary nitrate and lipid. Cross-bred Aberdeen Angus steers achieved greater live-weight gains (P<0.01), but had greater DM intakes (P<0.001), greater fat depth (P<0.01) and poorer residual feed intakes (P<0.01) than LIMx steers. Cross-bred Aberdeen Angus steers had higher daily CH4 outputs (P<0.001) but emitted less CH4 per kilogram DM intake than LIMx steers (P<0.05). In conclusion, inclusion of nitrate reduced CH4 emissions in growing beef cattle although the efficacy of nitrate was less than in previous work. When increased dietary lipid and nitrate inclusion were combined there was no evidence of an interaction between treatments and therefore combining different nutritional treatments to mitigate CH4 emissions could be a useful means of achieving reductions in CH4 while minimising any adverse effects.
This study was undertaken to further develop our understanding of the links between breed, diet and the rumen microbial community and determine their effect on production characteristics and methane (CH4) emissions from beef cattle. The experiment was of a 2×2 factorial design, comprising two breeds (crossbred Charolais (CHX); purebred Luing (LU)) and two diets (concentrate-straw or silage-based). In total, 80 steers were used and balanced for sire within each breed, farm of origin and BW across diets. The diets (fed as total mixed rations) consisted of (g/kg dry matter (DM)) forage to concentrate ratios of either 500 : 500 (Mixed) or 79 : 921 (Concentrate). Steers were adapted to the diets over a 4-week period and performance and feed efficiency were then measured over a 56-day test period. Directly after the 56-day test, CH4 and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions were measured (six steers/week) over a 13-week period. Compared with LU steers, CHX steers had greater average daily gain (ADG; P<0.05) and significantly (P<0.001) lower residual feed intake. Crossbred Charolais steers had superior conformation and fatness scores (P<0.001) than LU steers. Although steers consumed, on a DM basis, more Concentrate than Mixed diet (P<0.01), there were no differences between diets in either ADG or feed efficiency during the 56-day test. At slaughter, however, Concentrate-fed steers were heavier (P<0.05) and had greater carcass weights than Mixed-fed steers (P<0.001). Breed of steer did not influence CH4 production, but it was substantially lower when the Concentrate rather than Mixed diet was fed (P<0.001). Rumen fluid from Concentrate-fed steers contained greater proportions of propionic acid (P<0.001) and lower proportions of acetic acid (P<0.001), fewer archaea (P<0.01) and protozoa (P=0.09), but more Clostridium Cluster XIVa (P<0.01) and Bacteroides plus Prevotella (P<0.001) than Mixed-fed steers. When the CH4 to CO2 molar ratio was considered as a proxy method for CH4 production (g/kg DM intake), only weak relationships were found within diets. In conclusion, although feeding Concentrate and Mixed diets produced substantial differences in CH4 emissions and rumen characteristics, differences in performance were influenced more markedly by breed.
The effects on the stress intensity factor of bonding repair patches over a crack in a large sheet under uniaxial loading are studied using two simple numerical models. The variation of the stress intensity factor with increasing crack length is investigated and results for repairs involving large elliptical patches are found to agree with a closed-form approximation. Further cases are considered where the patch is either rectangular in shape or less than a certain critical size. For such repairs the closed-form approximation for the stress intensity factor is shown to be unsuitable.
The boundary element method is combined with the method of compatible deformations to obtain stress intensity factors for a cracked sheet reinforced with a repair patch. The method is applied to the analysis of a circular patch over a central crack in a rectangular uniaxially stressed sheet. It is shown that the proximity of the edges of the sheet to the patch edge has a negligible effect on the stress intensity factor of a crack completely under the patch.
In recent years there has been an increasing need for data on the rates of fatigue crack propagation in alloys of interest to the aircraft industry. In general alloys in which cracks grow slowly, under given stress conditions, have an obvious advantage over those in which cracks grow faster; there is more time to detect a crack before failure. It is possible that, in the future, quantitative crack propagation data may be used to give better estimates of the safe life of a structure. There is, however, a need to rationalise the presentation of such data and to study the effect of such parameters as specimen geometry and stress level. Some experiments to investigate the effect of varying some of these parameters in one clad aluminium alloy, DTD 5070A are described. It is a summary of work contained in two RAE Technical Reports.
Background: Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a neurological condition arising from a perinatal or intra-uterine stroke. In the past 25 years there has been a revolution in neonatal care. For over 40 years children with CP in and around Saskatoon have been treated through the Kinsman Childrens’ Centre (KCC). This is a unique population database covering all CP patients in the region. We analyzed the KCC database to determine if the recent changes in neonatal care were correlated with the incidence of CP co-morbidities. Methods: A retrospective study using a Saskatchewan database of cerebral palsy data from the last four decades. Results: Over the last 40 years the incidence of visual disturbance and diagnoses of epilepsy in children with CP have remained stable regardless of advances in neonatal care. However, incidences of spine and hip issues requiring orthopedic intervention have halved. Conclusions: We hypothesize that advances in neonatal care have been successful in decreasing the incidence of gross motor impairments however have yet to significantly impact impairments relating to cortical network function. Although improvements in care have resulted in a decreased burden of disability, there remains opportunity for further improvements, especially in the settings of epilepsy and long-term visual function.
Adding nitrate to the diet or increasing the concentration of dietary lipid are effective strategies for reducing enteric methane emissions. This study investigated their effect on health and performance of finishing beef cattle. The experiment was a two×two×three factorial design comprising two breeds (CHX, crossbred Charolais; LU, Luing); two basal diets consisting of (g/kg dry matter (DM), forage to concentrate ratios) 520 : 480 (Mixed) or 84 : 916 (Concentrate); and three treatments: (i) control with rapeseed meal as the main protein source replaced with either (ii) calcium nitrate (18 g nitrate/kg diet DM) or (iii) rapeseed cake (RSC, increasing acid hydrolysed ether extract from 25 to 48 g/kg diet DM). Steers (n=84) were allocated to each of the six basal diet×treatments in equal numbers of each breed with feed offered ad libitum. Blood methaemoglobin (MetHb) concentrations (marker for nitrate poisoning) were monitored throughout the study in steers receiving nitrate. After dietary adaptation over 28 days, individual animal intake, performance and feed efficiency were recorded for a test period of 56 days. Blood MetHb concentrations were low and similar up to 14 g nitrate/kg diet DM but increased when nitrate increased to 18 g nitrate/kg diet DM (P<0.001). An interaction between basal diet and day (P<0.001) indicated that MetHb% was consistently greater in Concentrate – than Mixed-fed steers at 18 g nitrate/kg diet DM. Maximum individual MetHb% was 15.4% (of total Hb), which is lower than considered clinically significant (30%). MetHb concentrations for individual steers remained consistent across time. Concentrate-fed steers were more efficient (lower residual feed intake (RFI) values) than Mixed-fed steers (P<0.01), with lower dry matter intake (DMI) (kg/day) (P<0.001) and similar average daily gain (ADG). CHX steers were more efficient (lower RFI; P<0.01) than LU steers with greater ADG (P<0.01), lower DMI (/kg BW; P<0.01) and lower fat depth (P<0.001). ADG, BW or DMI did not differ across dietary treatments (P>0.05). Neither basal diet nor treatment affected carcass quality (P>0.05), but CHX steers achieved a greater killing out proportion (P<0.001) than LU steers. Thus, adding nitrate to the diet or increasing the level of dietary lipid through the use of cold-pressed RSC, did not adversely affect health or performance of finishing beef steers when used within the diets studied.
Neonatal mortality in small ruminant livestock has remained stubbornly unchanging over the past 40 years, and represents a significant loss of farm income, contributes to wastage and affects animal welfare. Scientific knowledge about the biology of neonatal adaptation after birth has been accumulating but does not appear to have had an impact in improving survival. In this paper, we ask what might be the reasons for the lack of impact of the scientific studies of lamb and kid mortality, and suggest strategies to move forward. Biologically, it is clear that achieving a good intake of colostrum, as soon as possible after birth, is crucial for neonatal survival. This provides fuel for thermoregulation, passive immunological protection and is involved in the development of attachment between the ewe and lamb. The behaviour of the lamb in finding the udder and sucking rapidly after birth is a key component in ensuring sufficient colostrum is ingested. In experimental studies, the main risk factors for lamb mortality are low birthweight, particularly owing to poor maternal nutrition during gestation, birth difficulty, litter size and genetics, which can all be partly attributed to their effect on the speed with which the lamb reaches the udder and sucks. Similarly, on commercial farms, low birthweight and issues with sucking were identified as important contributors to mortality. In epidemiological studies, management factors such as providing assistance with difficult births, were found to be more important than risk factors associated with housing. Social science studies suggest that farmers generally have a positive attitude to improving neonatal mortality but may differ in beliefs about how this can be achieved, with some farmers believing they had no control over early lamb mortality. Facilitative approaches, where farmers and advisors work together to develop neonatal survival strategies, have been shown to be effective in achieving management goals, such as optimising ewe nutrition, that lead to reductions in lamb mortality. We conclude that scientific research is providing useful information on the biology underpinning neonatal survival, such as optimal birthweights, lamb vigour and understanding the importance of sufficient colostrum intake, but the transfer of that knowledge would benefit from an improved understanding of the psychology of management change on farm. Developing tailored solutions, on the basis of adequate farm records, that make use of the now substantial body of scientific literature on neonatal mortality will help to achieve lower neonatal mortality.
Increasing the concentration of dietary lipid is a promising strategy for reducing methane (CH4) emissions from ruminants. This study investigated the effect of replacing grass silage with brewers’ grains on CH4 emissions of pregnant, non-lactating beef cows of two breeds. The experiment was a two×two factorial design comprising two breeds (LIMx, crossbred Limousin; and LUI, purebred Luing) and two diets consisting of (g/kg diet dry matter (DM)) barley straw (687) and grass silage (301, GS), or barley straw (763) and brewers’ grains (226, BG), which were offered ad libitum. Replacing GS with BG increased the acid-hydrolysed ether extract concentration from 21 to 37 g/kg diet DM. Cows (n=48) were group-housed in equal numbers of each breed across two pens and each diet was allocated to one pen. Before measurements of CH4, individual dry matter intake (DMI), weekly BW and weekly body condition score were measured for a minimum of 3 weeks, following a 4-week period to acclimatise to the diets. CH4 emissions were subsequently measured on one occasion from each cow using individual respiration chambers. Due to occasional equipment failures, CH4 measurements were run over 9 weeks giving 10 observations for each breed×treatment combination (total n=40). There were no differences between diets for daily DMI measured in the chambers (9.92 v. 9.86 kg/day for BG and GS, respectively; P>0.05). Cows offered the BG diet produced less daily CH4 than GS-fed cows (131 v. 156 g/day: P<0.01). When expressed either as g/kg DMI or kJ/MJ gross energy intake (GEI), BG-fed cows produced less CH4 than GS-fed cows (13.5 v. 16.4 g/kg DMI, P<0.05; 39.2 v. 48.6 kJ/MJ GEI, P<0.01). Breed did not affect daily DMI or CH4 expressed as g/day, g/kg DMI or kJ/MJ GEI (P>0.05). However, when expressed as a proportion of metabolic BW (BW0.75), LUI cows had greater DMI than LIMx cows (84.5 v. 75.7 g DMI/kg BW0.75, P<0.05) and produced more CH4 per kg BW0.75 than LIMx cows (1.30 v. 1.05 g CH4/kg BW0.75; P<0.01). Molar proportions of acetate were higher (P<0.001) and propionate and butyrate lower (P<0.01) in rumen fluid samples from BG-fed compared with GS-fed cows. This study demonstrated that replacing GS with BG in barley straw-based diets can effectively reduce CH4 emissions from beef cows, with no suppression of DMI.
The prenatal period is of critical importance in defining how individuals respond to their environment throughout life. Stress experienced by pregnant females has been shown to have detrimental effects on offspring behaviour, health and productivity. The sheep has been used extensively as a model species to inform human studies. However, in the farmed environment, the consequences for the lamb of the imposition of prenatal stresses upon the ewe have received much less attention. The stressors that pregnant ewes are most frequently exposed to include sub-optimal nutrition and those related to housing, husbandry and environment which may be either acute or chronic. A systematic review of the literature was adopted to identify material which had production-relevant maternal stressors and lamb outcomes. The current review focussed upon the lamb up to weaning around the age of 100 days and the results clearly demonstrate that stressors imposed upon the ewe have implications for offspring welfare and performance. Maternal under-nutrition (UN) in the last third of pregnancy consistently impaired lamb birth-weight and subsequent vigour and performance, while earlier UN had a variable effect on performance. Feeding the ewe above requirements did not have positive effects on lamb performance and welfare. Social and husbandry stressors such as transport, shearing, mixing and physiological treatments designed to mimic acute stress which would be considered disadvantageous for the ewe had positive or neutral effects for the lamb, highlighting a potential conflict between the welfare of the ewe and her lamb. This review also identified considerable gaps in knowledge, particularly in respect of the impact of disease upon the ewe during pregnancy and interactions between different stressors and the responses of ewe and lamb.
The aims of the present study were to quantify hydrogen (H2) and methane (CH4) emissions from beef cattle under different dietary conditions and to assess how cattle genotype and rumen microbial community affected these emissions. A total of thirty-six Aberdeen Angus-sired (AAx) and thirty-six Limousin-sired (LIMx) steers were fed two diets with forage:concentrate ratios (DM basis) of either 8:92 (concentrate) or 52:48 (mixed). Each diet was fed to eighteen animals of each genotype. Methane (CH4) and H2 emissions were measured individually in indirect respiration chambers. H2 emissions (mmol/min) varied greatly throughout the day, being highest after feed consumption, and averaged about 0·10 mol H2/mol CH4. Higher H2 emissions (mol/kg DM intake) were recorded in steers fed the mixed diet. Higher CH4 emissions (mol/d and mol/kg DM intake) were recorded in steers fed the mixed diet (P< 0·001); the AAx steers produced more CH4 on a daily basis (mol/d, P< 0·05) but not on a DM intake basis (mol/kg DM intake). Archaea (P= 0·002) and protozoa (P< 0·001) were found to be more abundant and total bacteria (P< 0·001) less abundant (P< 0·001) on feeding the mixed diet. The relative abundance of Clostridium cluster IV was found to be greater (P< 0·001) and that of cluster XIVa (P= 0·025) lower on feeding the mixed diet. The relative abundance of Bacteroides plus Prevotella was greater (P= 0·018) and that of Clostridium cluster IV lower (P= 0·031) in the LIMx steers. There were no significant relationships between H2 emissions and microbial abundance. In conclusion, the rate of H2 production immediately after feeding may lead to transient overloading of methanogenic archaea capacity to use H2, resulting in peaks in H2 emissions from beef cattle.
Lamb mortality remains a significant welfare and economic issue for sheep production. Lamb survival is to a degree dependent upon an easy delivery and the expression of appropriate behaviours from both mother and offspring, such as rapid standing, udder seeking and sucking by the lamb. Genetic solutions have the potential to improve birth assistance and lamb behaviour but large amounts of data are needed. Therefore, to achieve this objective, simple, proxy methods (scoring systems) were developed to quantify the level of birth difficulties and lamb vigour on farm. In the first study, detailed historical behavioural data from 1156 lambs (Scottish Blackface and Suffolk (S)) were analysed to develop criteria for 3 scores: birth assistance, lamb vigour and sucking assistance. The birth assistance score was developed by analysing the relationships between birth presentation and intervention levels, and intervention level and labour length. Lambs with abnormal birth positions required more assistance than normally presented lambs and lambs with long labours required more and greater assistance than those with short labours. Lamb vigour score was developed by analysing the latencies for the lamb to first perform specific behaviours; more vigorous lambs reach landmark behaviours faster than low vigour lambs. The sucking assistance score was developed from the relationship between the latency to suck successfully and assistance level, where lambs that were slow to suck required more assistance than lambs that were quick to suck. In the second study, the behaviour scoring systems (5-point categorical scales) were validated using a commercial flock of 80 twin-bearing crossbred ewes mated with either Texel (T) or S sires by simultaneously recording scores and the latency to perform specific landmark behaviours (i.e. to stand, seek the udder and suck). The vigour scores (recorded at 5 min of age) were compared with the latency from birth to standing and showed that lambs with lower (better) vigour scores were faster to stand after birth than those with higher scores. The sucking assistance scores were compared with the latency from birth to sucking, and showed that lambs with lower sucking assistance scores are quicker to suck than those with high scores. These results showed that the scoring systems could provide a practical and reliable assessment of birth assistance and lamb behaviour on farm and were sufficiently sensitive to discriminate vigour levels between lambs sired by either S or T rams.
A possible outcome of policies designed to reduce obesity in the human population and to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions may be a decrease in human consumption of livestock products. However, livestock products currently make substantial contributions to intakes of specific micro-nutrients. Therefore, the present review examines the potential for increasing micro-nutrient concentrations of milk, muscle meats and eggs by nutritional and genetic means. Of the trace elements, copper (Cu), iron (Fe) and zinc (Zn) concentrations were largely resistant to manipulation by dietary means, but iodine (I) and selenium (Se) could be readily manipulated. Similarly, while α-tocopherol concentrations were readily manipulated, responses to dietary supplementation with retinol, folate and cobalamin were lower and riboflavin was resistant to dietary manipulation. There were differences between products in the ease with which composition could be manipulated: egg concentrations were most responsive followed by milk and muscle meats. However, livestock products with increased micro-nutrients concentrations can supply a substantial proportion of the daily reference nutrient intake.
Optimal conditions were determined for performing antibody measurements (ELISA), lymphocyte transformation tests and, to some extent, skin tests in badgers. These parameters, together with the bacteriological and pathological studies reported previously (Pritchard et al. 1987), were used to follow the course of intradermal and intratracheal challenge of badgers with bovine tubercle bacilli. Two challenge doses were used for each route of infection and two animals received each dose. None of the four animals challenged by the intratracheal method showed any evidence of infection, suggesting that adult badgers may have some resistance to challenge by this method. All four animals challenged intradermally developed lesion of tuberculosis.
Immunologically the disease passed through three phases. There was an early phase in which lymphocyte transformation to whole BCG steadily and significantly increased, and skin tests to tuberculin became positive but there was little change in antibody levels. This was followed by an intermediate phase of variable skin responses, fluctuating lymphocyte transformation and significant increase in antibody levels. The final phase, which was only seen in two animals with extensive disease, was associated with changing skin reactions and falling lymphocyte responses, together with a sudden increase in antibody levels.
This paper presents the first formal evidence of cell-mediated immunity to tuberculosis in the badger, which may delay onset and prolong the survival of challenged animals.
The experiment measured lamb responses to supplementation of the pregnant ewe diet with vitamin E above requirement. Crossbred ewes were mated with either Suffolk or Texel rams. Twin-bearing ewes were randomly allocated (approximately 21 months of age at allocation) to one of four treatment groups (20 ewes per group, 10 mated with Suffolk and 10 with Texel rams). Treatments imposed were 50, 100, 150 or 250 IU supplementary vitamin E per ewe per day to give a four treatment by two sire-type factorial experimental design. Ewes were fed concentrates to meet energy requirements for stage of pregnancy and hay ad libitum. Diets were introduced approximately 6 weeks before lambing. Blood samples were obtained prior to introduction of diets, 17 days after introduction of diets and within 24 h of lambing from a subset of eight ewes per treatment (32 total). Colostrum samples were obtained from 10 ewes per treatment, 12 h after birth of the first lamb. All births were observed and a lamb vigour score was assigned to each lamb 5 min after birth. At 1 and 12 h after birth, rectal temperature, and at 12 h after birth, sex, crown-rump length and BW of each lamb were recorded. Mean ewe plasma α-tocopherol concentration prior to introduction of the diets was 1.5 μg/ml (s.e.m. 0.09) and did not differ between groups. There were positive linear (P < 0.001) effects of dietary vitamin E on plasma (17 days after introduction of diets) and colostrum (12 h after birth) α-tocopherol concentrations. Lamb vigour scores were superior (P < 0.001) for lambs sired by Texel rather than Suffolk rams but there were no differences as a result of vitamin E supplementation. Lamb mortality was low and unrelated to either sire or supplementary vitamin E. Lamb birth and weaning weights were also unaffected by vitamin E supplementation. Supplementing the ewe with vitamin E therefore had no effect on any lamb measurements.
Nutrient intake during pregnancy affects foetal development and placental function in a range of species, often with long-term effects on offspring viability. Maternal supply and placental transport of amino acids are key to delivering amino acids for foetal metabolism. Maternal under-nutrition has been shown to reduce both maternal and foetal amino acid concentrations even after a period of re-feeding (Kwon et al. 2004). Intriguingly whether sheep have been adapted to a harsh environment or not appears to influence the extent of any reduction (Jobgen et al. 2008). The present study therefore tested whether plasma amino acid concentrations differed between Scottish Blackface (B) sheep adapted to a hill environment and a lowland breed (Suffolk, S) selected for lean tissue growth when challenged by a period of under-nutrition.
Neonatal lamb mortality represents both a welfare issue and an important production inefficiency. Approximately 80% of lamb mortality can be attributed to the starvation-mismothering-exposure complex and occurs in the first 3 days after birth. Sub-optimal supply of trace elements and vitamins to the ewe is a potential risk factor in lamb mortality with Se, vitamin E and fatty acids the most likely candidates (Rooke et al. 2008). Responses to vitamin E supplementation above requirement in the last third of gestation are variable probably because of differences between studies in route of administration, dose administered and pre-experiment vitamin E status of the ewe population. The object of the experiment was to characterise responses in lamb viability to supplementation of the maternal diet with vitamin E above the stated requirement.
Nutrient intake during pregnancy affects foetal development and placental function in a range of species, often with long-term effects on offspring viability. Maternal nutrient supply is believed to affect the ability of the placenta to deliver nutrients to the foetus (Fowden et al., 2006). In ruminant species, the majority of placental nutrient transport occurs in specialised structures called placentomes, which are categorised into 4 types (A-D) based on their morphological appearance. In type A placentomes, maternal tissue surrounds foetal tissues, whereas type D placentomes are typically everted and have a higher ratio of foetal:maternal tissue. It has been suggested that the distribution of placentome types may reflect the ability of the placenta to deliver nutrients (Vonnahme et al., 2006). This study tested the hypothesis that levels of under-nutrition typically encountered by hill ewes during pregnancy would alter the distribution of placentome types and that the relationship between ewe nutrition and placentome type would differ between breeds selected for lean tissue growth (such as the Suffolk) compared to less selected breeds (such as the Scottish Blackface).