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2. Verschave et al. BMC Veterinary Research (2014) 10:264.
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the data as to which breed is performing best, but
valuable data is being collected. Table 1 shows litter size,
mortality rate, lamb birth weight, lambing di culty and
ewe mother ability across litter size.
to an overall high level of performance, given the fact
that approximately 60 per cent of the fl ock comprises
ewe lambs and hoggets lambing for the fi rst time.
When we delve a little deeper into the data, we note
some interesting, although not completely unexpected,
di erences appearing. Mortality increases with litter size,
and although overall mortality at 9 per cent is in line
with targets for the given litter size, mortality increases
dramatically for ewes giving birth to four or more lambs.
This is partially explained by the low numbers of ewes in
this category (just 20 out of 280) plus the fact that two
of these ewes delivered four dead lambs, each of which
had been dead for some time in utero. Nevertheless,
important as potentially signifi cant welfare issues arise if
this trend continues.
ability will disimprove with increasing litter
size, with the exception that ewes giving
birth to singles had a poorer mothering
ability score than ewes producing twins
or triplets. However, I believe this is a
refl ection of the fact that many of the
sheep producing singles were fi rst-time
lambers and, indeed, ewe lambs, and is
an artefact of the unusual fl ock structure
we have this year. I would not expect this
trend to continue over time. The other
question it raises is: do ewes that give birth
to large litter sizes have poorer mothering
ability (one would certainly hope this is not
seeing, perhaps associated with the stress of multiple
births? Mothering ability, in this case, was measured as
the ewe's inclination to follow the lambs as they are
being carried from the group pen to the individual pen.
detailed information will be collected as the years
progress. Where farmers are interested in increasing
litter size, through the use of one of the breeds included
in this study, it is important to assess the potential
impact of breed choice on performance, labour
requirement and overall profi tability, all of which will be
measured in this project.