Effect of birth difficulty on ewe maternal behaviour and lamb survival

Document Type : Original Article


Department of Animal Husbandry, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Mansoura University, Mansoura, Egypt


Survival of the neonate relies on the integrated expression of appropriate
behaviours from both mother and young. In this study, the effect of birth difficulty on maternal and lamb behaviours and its influence on lamb survival was investigated in crossbred primiparous ewes (½ Finnish x ½ Rahmani). Assisted ewes spent significantly (P<0.05) less time licking (30.83±1.39 min/2 h) and nosing (24.25±1.79 time/2 hr) their lambs than unassisted mothers (38.52±2.96 min, 28.80±1.68 time/2 h) respectively. They were found to be more aggressive towards their lambs when attempt to suck (9.80±0.37, 12.90±0.84 and 10.50±0.50 time/2 h) when compared with unassisted one (8.00±0.40, 10.20±1.52 and 7.66±0.88 time/2h) respectively. Lamb behavioural development were found to be significantly (P<0.05) affected by birth difficulty with lambs that require assistance at birth even if they survive the birth process, they were slower to progress through the sequence of neonatal behaviours. These lambs were therefore at greater
risk of not surviving to weaning (28.57% vs. 11.42). It could be concluded that ease ofdelivery was an important factor determining the subsequent behaviour of the lamb and ewe and hence lamb survival, thus manipulation of husbandry and breeding system to improve delivery will improve lamb survival 


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