[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A schema describing the proposed relationships between photoperiodic, nutritional and social cues and they ways that they interact with genotype and steroid feedback in the control of hypothalamo-pituitary-testicular axis in the male sheep. Some of the hormones and neuropeptides that are potentially involved in these interactions are also indicated. The essential element is the primary role played by Dominique Blache's concept of a photoperiod-driven filter – it effectively determines the responses to the other environmental factors, but the effectiveness of the filter is itself determined by genotype.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We investigated the effect of genetic selection for temperament on the way that stressors affect the behaviour and the adrenal and reproductive axes of sheep. We tested three hypotheses: (i) isolation would increase cortisol secretion and decrease luteinising hormone (LH) secretion more in nervous sheep than in calm sheep; (ii) isolation combined with simulated human presence would increase cortisol secretion and decrease LH secretion more in nervous sheep than in calm sheep and (iii) isolation combined with stressors that were not specific to the selection process (i.e. non-selection stressors) would increase cortisol secretion and decrease LH secretion equally in calm and nervous sheep. Isolation alone increased cortisol secretion and decreased LH secretion in nervous sheep but not in calm sheep. Compared to calm sheep, nervous sheep were more agitated during the first 2 h of isolation but not during the second 2 h of isolation. Exposure to non-selection stressors increased cortisol secretion, decreased LH pulse amplitude and the mean plasma concentrations of LH in both calm and nervous sheep. We conclude that genetic selection for temperament affects the behavioural expression of the stress response and the secretion of adrenal and reproductive hormones during isolation, but has less impact on their reactivity to non-selection stressors.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Around the world, there is an increasing demand for animal products that are ‘clean, green and ethical’. ‘Clean’ involves minimising the use of drugs, chemicals and hormones; ‘green’ involves minimising the impact of the industry on the environment, including the production of greenhouse gases by ruminants; ‘ethical’ has an obvious focus on animal welfare, but ethical judgement needs to be applied to all practices in the rest of the supply chain, not just the farmers. CGE principles are relevant to all forms of animal production, from low-input extensive grazing systems to high-input intensive systems involving confinement of the animals.
Our concept of CGE management of reproduction (here illustrated for sheep or goats) is based on scientific evidence but does not require complex technology. Nutrition is the major challenge because we are limited primarily to the grazing of forages and pastures, but responding to this challenge opens up opportunities – new forages can supply energy and protein whilst improving animal health and welfare, and reducing carbon emissions. A second major factor is the need for accurate coordination of nutritional inputs with reproductive events to ensure that the metabolic signals are appropriate. To control of the timing of reproduction, we need to move beyond simply managing the presence of the male and seek more precision. Our ultimate CGE package is thus based on manipulation of male socio-sexual signals as well as nutrition, in combination with greater use of ultrasound and birth-site management to prevent neonatal mortality.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Sulphur-containing amino acids are a crucial requirement for fibre production and may be supplemented in the diet of fibre-producing animals to stimulate fibre growth. The alpaca fibre industry is a developing industry in Australia with high variability in fibre production. To date, there is no evidence whether supplementing the diet of alpacas with sulphur amino acids improves fibre production. We hypothesised that supplementation with the rumen-protected sulphur amino acid, methionine would increase fibre growth in alpacas. Three groups of eight huacaya alpaca wethers were fed daily a maintenance diet supplemented with 0, 2 or 4 g of rumen-protected methionine for 7 weeks. Fibre samples were taken at the beginning and end of the study with a blood sample taken by jugular venipuncture prior to feeding on the first day of each week. Methionine supplementation had no effect on fibre diameter (p = 0.92), fibre length (p = 0.91) or fibre yield (p = 0.33). The change of season over the study affected plasma glucose (p < 0.001), plasma urea nitrogen (p < 0.001) and fibre diameter (p < 0.001). The indifference between groups may be due to the maintenance diet supplying sufficient levels of methionine, the lack of genetic potential of the experimental animals to respond to additional methionine or that the supplemental methionine was not protected in alpacas and deaminated for glucose production.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Temperament influences the expression of maternal behaviour in sheep under experimental field conditions. We investigated whether maternal behaviour between ewes selected for a calm or nervous temperament is independent from environmental conditions. In addition, the level of maternal behaviour expressed by mothers is correlated with the concentration of hormones during the peripartum period. Therefore, we investigated whether the selection for temperament had resulted in hormonal differences between the two lines with regard to the hormones that could be involved in the onset of maternal behaviour. Oestradiol, progesterone and cortisol concentrations from 4 days before parturition to 24 h after parturition were determined from blood samples collected from 10 calm and 12 nervous ewes. Behavioural interactions between ewe and lamb were also recorded for 2 h starting at parturition. Mothers of both temperament lines showed adequate maternal behaviour under the controlled conditions of the study. Therefore, the results of the study do not suggest that selection for a calm or nervous temperament has profoundly affected the intrinsic ability of mothers to display adequate maternal behaviour. Hormonal differences between the two temperament lines were generally small and their possible influence on the display of maternal behaviour in the two temperament lines would have to be demonstrated.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Fibrous fur or fleece coats have an important role in insulating animals and aiding in the maintenance of homeothermy. Alpacas, raised for fibre production, are selected towards the finest fibre to improve the wearability of their fibre in garment form. The thermal consequences of reducing the fibre diameter on the external insulation are unknown, and may have a negative effect for the alpaca's thermal balance. We hypothesised that for a given fibre density, finer fibres would trap more air and provide lower thermal conductivity when exposed to low wind speed, but would be less robust, and so provide less insulation, when exposed to higher wind speed, than thicker fibres. We measured the thermal conductance of eight pelts of similar fibre density but with varying fibre diameter at 0, 1, 2, 4 and 6m/s wind speeds. Thermal conductivity was similar between pelts of different fibre diameters (P=0.58) at low wind speed. Conductance increased more in pelts with finer fibres at the high wind speed than in pelts with thicker fibres (P=0.02). Thus at the same fibre density, finer fibres result in increased heat loss at high wind speed. Increased heat loss at higher wind speed would result in the animal requiring more energy to maintain heat balance below the lower critical temperature, which will reduce fibre production efficiency.
Small Ruminant Research - SMALL RUMINANT RES. 01/2011; 96(2):165-172.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We have developed an experimental model in which groups of ewes are simultaneously experiencing the first ovarian follicular wave of their oestrous cycle. We used this 'first-wave model' in a 2 × 2 factorial experiment (ten ewes per group) to study the effect of body condition (BC) and a short-term supplement on follicular dynamics and ovulation rate. The 'first-wave' was established by giving ewes three injections of prostaglandin (PG), 7 days apart. The 6-day supplement (lupin grain) began 2 days after the second PG injection and continued until the third. Follicles were studied by ultrasound, and blood was sampled to measure glucose and hormones. The supplement increased (P<0.01) the concentrations of glucose, insulin and leptin, decreased FSH concentrations (P<0.01) and tended to increase oestradiol concentrations (P=0.06). The supplement tended to increase the number of 3 mm follicles (P=0.06). Compared with low-BC ewes, high-BC ewes had more follicular waves (P<0.05), higher concentrations of insulin, leptin and IGF1 (P<0.05) and tended to have higher FSH concentrations (P=0.09). Leptin and insulin concentrations remained high until the end of supplementation in high-BC ewes, whereas they decreased after the third day of supplementation in low-BC ewes. In conclusion, high concentrations of metabolic hormones in fat ewes are associated with the development of more follicular waves. When a supplement is superimposed on this situation, changes in glucose and metabolic hormones allow more follicles to be selected to ovulate.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In mature male sheep and goats, changes in feed intake seem to have little effect on gonadal endocrine function but induce profound changes on sperm production. These outcomes are due to changes in size of the seminiferous tubules and in spermatogenic efficiency. Except with severe underfeeding, there are only minor changes in the endocrine function of the testis (testosterone production) unless season-long treatments are imposed. For cattle, nutrition clearly affects testicular development and the production of spermatozoa in young bulls, as it does in other species but, after the period of rapid growth has ended, there appears to be little or no response to nutrition. We are developing a clear picture of the metabolic signals, neuroendocrine processes and hormonal control systems that are involved, particularly for the mature male sheep. The energetic components of the diet, rather than protein, seem to be responsible, so we have envisaged a model of the relationship between energy balance and reproduction that has 4 'dimensions': genotype, structure (organs), communication (chemical and neural signals, nutrient sensing) and time (dynamics, metabolic memory, programming). We have linked these perspectives to 'resource allocation theory' and incorporated them into strategies for 'clean, green and ethical animal production'. In contrast to the clear outcomes with respect to spermatogenesis, the effects of nutrition on sexual behaviour are more difficult to define, perhaps because the behaviour is affected by a complex mix of physiological factors and because of flawed methods for quantifying male behaviour. For example, sexual behaviour is compromised by severe feed restriction, but male sexual behaviour requires intensive motor activity so a decline in libido could be caused by general weakness rather than specific nutritional limitations. The interaction between sexual activity and feeding behaviour also complicates the issue under field conditions. At the other end of the scale, overweight males can show reduced sexual success because they have difficulty courting and mounting. For this reason, exercise can enhance the fertilising capacity of rams. This will be important in extensive mating systems where males need to assemble and guard a harem and then mate many times for several weeks. For artificial insemination centres, there seems to be very few data on the nutritional management of males, but problems with overfed animals appear to be a risk. Future research should concentrate on the intra-testicular systems mediating the effects of nutrition on the production of spermatozoa.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In seasonally anoestrous ewes of many breeds, the introduction of rams triggers an increase in gonadotrophin secretion that induces ovulation, a phenomenon known as the 'ram effect'. The ram effect is a practical method for mating ewes outside the natural breeding season, and also can provide synchronised lambing, but the variability of the response, especially in young animals, reduces its potential for widespread application. The aim of our study was to assess two factors that are thought to contribute to the variability in young ewes: temperament and sexual experience. We used anovulatory ewes from a flock that had been genetically selected for 'calm' or 'nervous' temperament and compared the endocrine and ovarian responses to the ram effect in four groups (each n=15): 'calm' and parous (3-6 years old); 'calm' and nulliparous (2 years old); 'nervous' and parous; and 'nervous' and nulliparous. Parous ewes, independently of their temperament, exhibited a faster endocrine response and a higher proportion of females cycling after ram introduction than nulliparous ewes. 'Nervous' ewes exhibited a higher proportion of females cycling after ram introduction than calm ewes, but only in the nulliparous group. We conclude that temperament exerts little influence on the response to the ram effect in sexually experienced ewes, and that females of 'nervous' temperament appear to respond better when sexually 'naive'. Both sexual experience and temperament need to be taken into consideration when flock management involves the ram effect. Finally, some ewes were cyclic at ram introduction, yet exhibited an increase in LH secretion even in the presence of high concentrations of progesterone. The mechanism by which the inhibitory effect of progesterone on LH secretion was bypassed needs to be clarified.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This paper reports an investigation into metabolic and endocrine maturity in the neonate lamb and the relationships between litter size, birth weight, and maternal metabolic and endocrine variables on behavior at birth and survival over the first 72 h of life. Data were from multiparous, fine-wool Merino ewes (n = 150; equal numbers of single-lamb and twin-lamb bearing status) lambed on pasture after late gestational glucocorticoid treatments. Stepwise multiple regression analysis was used to investigate relationships between lamb survival, behavior, endocrinology, and physiology. Improved lamb viability at 72 h after birth was related to decreased chill indices at birth, singleton litter status, greater presuckling rectal temperature, increased ewe prelambing plasma ghrelin concentration, female sex, heavier birth weight, and decreased lamb presuckling plasma glucose concentration. Greater rectal temperatures were associated with heavier birth weight and gestation lengths shorter than 146 d, but no relationship with neonatal behavioral progression was evident. Presuckling glucose concentrations were greater in singletons and lambs born to ewes of greater BCS at d 95 of gestation, and lambs of heavier birth weight, but were also associated with decreased rectal temperatures. This might reflect a delay in glucose utilization during the adjustment from a fetal metabolic rate to a rate appropriate for cold external environments. Singleton lambs exhibited decreased presuckling plasma NEFA concentrations and were almost 8 times more likely to survive to 72 h than a twin-born lamb. Birth weight was lesser in lambs born to ewes with elevated plasma glucose and leptin concentrations before lambing and was positively related to ewe BW at d 95 of gestation and to length of gestation. Greater presuckling plasma ghrelin and leptin concentrations were measured for shorter gestation lengths. Neonate presuckling ghrelin concentrations above 650 pg/mL tended (P = 0.077) to be associated with improved lamb survival to 72 h. This was consistent with a curvilinear decline in neonate survival rates to 72 h after birth as time of latency to suckle increased. No relationship was observed between lamb plasma glucose concentrations and behavioral expression after lambing. Lambs exhibiting greater metabolic and endocrine maturity at birth had improved survival in a cold environment to 72 h after birth. The role of ghrelin in ovine fetal development warrants further investigation.
Journal of Animal Science 11/2009; 88(2):581-93. · 2.09 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Merino ewes have been selected, over 18 generations, for calm (C) or nervous (N) temperament using using an arena test and an isolation box test. We investigated the relative contributions of genotype versus the post-partum behaviour of the dam on the temperament of the lambs using a cross-fostering procedure. Forty-eight multiparous calm and 52 nervous ewes were artificially inseminated with the semen of a sire of the same temperament. At birth, 32 lambs of a given temperament line were cross fostered to ewes from the other line (16 N × C, 16 C × N), 34 lambs were cross fostered to ewes from the same line (15 C × C, 19 N × N) and 30 lambs were left with their birth mother (15 C, 15 N), to control for the effect of cross fostering. The temperament of the progeny was assessed at two occasions, one week after birth by measuring locomotor activity during an open-field test and at weaning (16 weeks) by measuring locomotor activity during an arena test and agitation score measured during an isolation box test. There was a genotype effect but no maternal or fostering effect on the lamb temperament at one week. This may be because the maternal behaviour of the foster ewes did not differ considerably between the calm and nervous mothers during adoption or within the first week, post partum. Similarly, at weaning, only a genotype effect was found on the locomotor and agitation score. Therefore, it appears that temperament in Merino sheep is mainly determined by the genetic transmission of the trait across generations rather than behaviours learned from the mother.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Temperament influences maternal behavior and lamb survival in Merino sheep selected for calm or nervous temperament. The impact of this selection on mother-young recognition and early expression of temperament in lambs is unknown. We tested the ability of multiparous ewes selected for calm (n = 16) or nervous (n = 18) temperament to recognize their own lambs 6 hr after parturition, the ability of the lambs to display a preference for their own mother at 18 hr, and the temperament of the lambs at 1 and 16 weeks of age. Ewes and lambs from both genotypes showed a similar preference for their familiar kin. In contrast, differences in temperament were detectable at 1 and 16 weeks of age. Nervous lambs showed higher vocal and locomotor activity than calm lambs. Thus, temperament did not affect the early process of ewe-lamb bonding but might affect the quality of the mother-young relationship under more challenging situations.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Perinatal mortality is a major contributing factor to reproductive wastage in grazing sheep industries. Enhanced metabolic and endocrine maturity at birth may improve the behavioral competency and thermoregulatory ability of neonates, potentially improving lamb survival over the first 72 h of life. Maternal glucocorticoid treatment in late gestation was investigated as a mechanism for manipulating metabolic and endocrine maturity in the ovine neonate. Multiparous, fine-wool Merino ewes (n = 150) were divided into 3 groups to lamb on pasture. Within each group, 5 single-lamb and 5 twin-lamb bearing ewes were randomly allocated to 1 of 5 treatments. Treatments included a saline control (1 mL), or dexamethasone (2 mg/mL as the sodium phosphate) injected intramuscularly at 1 of 2 dose rates (1.5 or 3.0 mg) at d 130 or 141 of gestation. One-half of the control ewes were injected at d 130 and the remainder at d 141. Dexamethasone treatment had no effect on lamb survival to 72 h after birth, although there tended (P = 0.09) to be a smaller proportion of lambs dying due to dystocia than for control lambs. Heart girth at birth in singleton and twin lambs was reduced (P < 0.01) at the greater dose rate. Further, treatment also reduced birth weight (by about 5%) and presuckling rectal temperatures in twin lambs, but not in singleton lambs. These reductions were also dependent on the sex of the lamb. Dexamethasone treatment did not alter gestation length or lamb presuckling plasma glucose, NEFA, urea, or leptin concentrations, but treatment at d 141 increased (P < 0.05) ghrelin concentrations in singleton and male lambs. Behavioral interactions between ewes and neonatal lambs were generally unaffected, although treatment at d 130 produced lambs that took longer to bleat than lambs of untreated ewes (P < 0.05). Treatment did not affect the concentration of measured blood metabolites or hormones at weaning. Although there were interactions between litter size, lamb sex, and the dose rate and time of treatment on weaning weight, BW recorded 73 d after weaning was unaffected by treatment. Despite changes in birth weight, rectal temperature, lamb behavior, and presuckling plasma ghrelin concentrations, survival in the first 72 h of life, and lamb growth performance were unaffected by periparturient maternal glucocorticoid treatment.
Journal of Animal Science 06/2009; 87(10):3167-78. · 2.09 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Stimuli from a prospective mate increase the secretion of luteinising hormone (LH) in sheep. This 'male effect' in ewes and 'female effect' effect in rams is predominantly mediated by olfactory signals, though it is thought that non-olfactory signals play synergistic or substitutive roles. In this study, we tested whether exposure to visual or audio-visual stimuli from a prospective mate would stimulate an increase in LH secretion in ewes (Experiment 1) and rams (Experiment 2). In Experiment 1, groups of eight Merino ewes were exposed to one of three stimuli midway through a frequent blood-sampling regimen: full ram contact, still images of rams, a video of ewes and rams mating. Control ewes (n = 8) were completely isolated from rams. Exposure to still images of rams appeared to stimulate an increase in mean LH concentrations (P < 0.05) and tended to increase LH pulse frequency (P < 0.1), but the response was significantly smaller than that observed in ewes exposed to rams (P < 0.01). Audio-visual stimuli had no effect on any parameters of LH secretion (P > 0.1). In Experiment 2, Merino rams were allocated to either an Exposure (n = 7) or a Control (n = 7) group. Exposure rams underwent two exposure periods midway through a frequent blood-sampling regimen; exposure to still images of ewes and audio recorded during mating of ewes and rams (audio-visual exposure); exposure to oestrous ewes (ewe exposure). Control rams were sampled at the same frequency but remained isolated from ewe stimuli. Exposure of rams to the audio-visual stimuli did not affect any parameters of LH secretion (P > 0.1). In contrast, exposure to oestrous ewes increased LH pulse frequency (P < 0.05) and advanced the onset of the next LH pulse (P < 0.05). In conclusion, visual signals appear to be involved in eliciting the neuroendocrine response of ewes to rams and are of greater importance to this phenomenon in ewes (male effect) than rams (female effect). However, overall the visual and audio-visual signals used in this study were far less effective than stimulus animals, suggesting that these stimuli are less important than olfactory signals, or a combination of olfactory and audio-visual signals.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The objective of this study was to determine whether the physiological response to an intravenous glucose challenge would be affected by genetic strain or concentrate supplementation in grazing Holstein-Friesian cows in early lactation. North American (NA; n = 30) or New Zealand (NZ; n = 30) cows were randomly allocated to 1 of 3 feeding treatments. All cows were offered a generous pasture allowance, and 4 of the 6 groups received either 3 or 6 kg of dry matter (DM)/cow per day of concentrates. During wk 5 of lactation, all cows underwent an intravenous glucose challenge. Cows of NA origin produced more milk than NZ cows, but there was no significant strain effect on milk fat or protein yield. Milk yield and the yield of individual components increased with increasing level of concentrate eaten, but there were no significant strain x diet interactions. During wk 1 to 6, mean body weight and body condition score decreased in all treatments. Average body weight was greater in NA cows, but body condition score was greater for NZ cows. There was no strain or diet effect on the length of the postpartum anovulatory interval, with cows ovulating before 40 d postpartum on average. Glucose fractional turnover rate was greater in NZ cows compared with those of NA origin and in all cows receiving 6 kg of DM concentrates, indicating a less severe insulin resistance in those treatments. Consistent with this, the time taken to dispose of half the peak glucose concentration was less when 6 kg of DM concentrate was fed, and tended to be less in NZ than in NA cows. There was no effect of genetic strain on glucose area under the curve (AUC) at 60 or 120 min, but AUC at both time points was less in cows receiving 6 kg of DM concentrates per day. Neither genetic strain nor nutrition affected basal or peak insulin concentrations, insulin increment, or insulin AUC, and there were no strain x diet interactions for any of the glucose challenge response variables measured. In conclusion, differences in milk production between NA and NZ cows in early lactation can, at least in part, be explained by the greater degree of insulin resistance in the NA cows, and this insulin resistance can be overcome by supplementing grazing cows with 6 kg of DM concentrates.
Journal of Dairy Science 02/2009; 92(1):216-22. · 2.57 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Ghrelin is an endogenous ligand of the growth hormone secretagogue receptor and a potential orexigenic agent in monogastrics and ruminants. Obestatin has been reported to have the opposite (anorexigenic) effect. Fifty one multiparous cows were randomly allocated to 1 of 3 groups (n = 17): a control group and 2 groups with cows continuously infused with 0.74 mumol/d of ghrelin (GHR group) or obestatin (OBE group) subcutaneously. Infusions began 21 d in milk, and treatments continued for 8 wk. Generalized linear models were used to determine the treatment effect on average daily and cumulative milk production and composition, and plasma ghrelin, growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-1, leptin, nonesterified fatty acids, and glucose. Mixed models, with cow included as a repeated effect, were used to determine if treatment effects differed by week postcalving for milk production, body weight, and body condition score (BCS; scale 1 to 10). Parity, breed, week of the year at calving, treatment, week postcalving, and the 2 wk preexperimental average of each measure (covariate) were included as fixed effects. Treatment did not affect dry matter intake. Cows infused with GHR lost more BCS (-0.71 units) over the 8-wk study period than the control (-0.23 BCS units) cows, and on average were thinner than cows in either of the other 2 treatments (0.2 BCS units). Consistent with the extra BCS loss in GHR cows, plasma IGF-1, glucose, and leptin concentrations were reduced and plasma nonesterified fatty acid concentrations were greater in GHR cows. Despite a numerical tendency for GHR cows to produce more milk (1,779 kg) than control (1,681 kg) or OBE (1,714 kg) cows during the 8-wk period, milk production differences were not statistically different. However, the timing of the numerical separation of the lactation curves coincided with the significant changes in BCS, IGF-1, and leptin. Results indicate a positive effect of ghrelin infusion on lipolysis. Further research is required to determine if the numerical increase in milk production, which coincides with the increased negative energy balance, is real.
Journal of Dairy Science 01/2009; 91(12):4728-40. · 2.57 Impact Factor