• An investigation into the factors associated with ewe colostrum production

      Campion, Frank P.; Crosby, Thomas F.; Creighton, Philip; Fahey, Alan G.; Boland, Tommy M.; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Elsevier BV, 2019-09)
      The majority of lamb mortality which occurs during the first 24 h post-partum is preventable through providing the lamb with sufficient quantities of high quality colostrum during this time. Data from seven late gestation nutrition experiments carried out at this institute between 2002 and 2014 were collated into a single data set comprising of 415 twin bearing ewes. Analysis was carried out to investigate the key drivers of ewe colostrum production excluding nutrient intake, namely body reserve mobilisation, ewe breed type, ewe age, gestation length and lamb birth weight. The volume of colostrum produced at 1 and 18 h post-partum was significantly lower than the volume recorded at 10 h post-partum (P = 0.01). Multivariate regression analysis indicated that colostrum volume during the first 18 h post-partum was influenced by lamb birth weight (P = 0.01), ewe age (P = 0.01), breed type (P = 0. 01) and gestation length (P = 0.06). Live weight change (P = 0.05) also had a significant influence on the volume of colostrum produced but BCS change did not affect colostrum production (P = 0.25). Further multivariate regression analysis indicated that IgG yield was influenced ewe breed type (P = 0.01), lamb birth weight (P = 0.02), gestation length (P = 0.05) and BCS change (P = 0.04). Live weight change (P = 0.12) and ewe age (P = 0.62) did not influence the quantity of IgG produced. Leicester ewes produced less colostrum per kg lamb birth weight at 1 h post-partum compared to all other ewe breed types (P = 0.01) and less than Suffolk ewes at 10 h post-partum (P = 0.01). The result of this analysis shows the key factors excluding ewe nutrition that drive colostrum production. Ewe breed type in particular appears to play an important role in the ability of the ewe to produce sufficient quantities of adequate quality colostrum. In conclusion the result of this analysis highlights the important factors associated with ewe colostrum volume and IgG yield excluding nutrition. In particular the overall structure of the flock such as breed type and ewe age is important when considering the ability of the flock to meet colostrum demands and hence reduce lamb mortality.