Study to boost lamb survival

Nov 21, 2012
Study to boost lamb survival
Is a lack of the appetite hormone ghrelin responsible for a large number of lambs never taking their first feed and subsequently dying? PhD researcher Edward Parker aims to find out.

A QUT and CSIRO researcher aims to find out whether a lack of the appetite hormone ghrelin is responsible for lambs not seeking their first vital feed.

"Ghrelin and similar hormones are the signposts that let us know when we're hungry," said PhD student Edward Parker.

"We believe that if a lamb doesn't have appropriate levels of ghrelin at birth it simply isn't hungry and so doesn't take that first feed.

"The first feed from a ewe is filled with nutrients and other substances that are important for the lamb's survival," he said.

Mr Parker said finding out the degree to which higher levels of ghrelin could prevent lamb deaths was essential.

"Australia is one of the world's leading producers of lamb and mutton with the off-farm sheepmeat industry worth approximately $4.1 billion annually, while the wool industry earns Australia returns of approximately $2.7 billion each year," he said.

"Lamb survival is a significant problem for the industry so finding a way to prevent even a proportion of these deaths is important for productivity and the welfare of these animals."

Mr Parker said he aimed to take before and after lambs' first feeds to determine the levels of ghrelin present.

"We will then compare the early ghrelin levels in lambs that prospered to levels in their poor performing companions to determine if any differences exist," he said.

"If ghrelin is found to be lacking in lambs at birth we might be able to set up a plan for feeding pregnant ewes with that would boost the ghrelin levels in new-born lambs.

"No-one has looked into this before so hopefully this research will provide the sheep industry with important information."

Mr Parker said were usually born over night and early morning during winter/spring when grass was more plentiful and less so, but the downside was that temperatures out in the paddock were often freezing.

"A lamb will often put its energy into just trying to keep warm and if it doesn't have sufficient it won't have the energy or the motivation to stand and search out its mother's udder in order to feed," he said.

Explore further: Oregon food label measure headed for recount

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The ewe can mitigate adverse experiences in her lambs

May 12, 2011

Lambs are likely to encounter a number of adverse events, starting from the fetal stage. In rodents and humans, it was shown that the mother can mitigate the effects of adverse experiences in her young.

Genetic changes behind sweet tooth

Apr 04, 2011

The substance ghrelin plays an important role in various addictions, such as alcoholism and binge-eating. It also impacts on sugar consumption, which is due, in part, to genetic factors, reveals new research from the University ...

Lambs provide crucial link in understanding obesity

Mar 14, 2011

The research, published today in The Journal of Physiology, shows a definite link between maternal and offspring obesity and is the first demonstration that this is the case in mammals which bear 'mature offspring' – ...

Recommended for you

Oregon food label measure headed for recount

Nov 25, 2014

Tallies of the last remaining ballots show an Oregon measure that would require labeling of genetically modified foods lost by only 809 votes and is headed for an automatic recount.

How photosynthesis changed the planet

Nov 20, 2014

Two and a half billion years ago, single-celled organisms called cyanobacteria harnessed sunlight to split water molecules, producing energy to power their cells and releasing oxygen into an atmosphere that ...

From dried cod to tissue sample preservation

Nov 19, 2014

Could human tissue samples be dried for storage, instead of being frozen? Researchers are looking at the salt cod industry for a potential tissue sample drying technology that could save money without sacrificing tissue quality.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.