From birth to colostrum: early steps leading to lamb survival

Raymond Nowak, Pascal Poindron
2006 Reproduction nutrition development (Print)  
New-born lambs have limited energy reserves and need a rapid access to colostrum to maintain homeothermy and survive. In addition to energy, colostrum provides immunoglobulins which ensure passive systemic immunity. Therefore, getting early access to the udder is essential for the neonate. The results from the literature reviewed here highlight the importance of the birth site as the location where the mutual bonding between the mother and her young takes place. Attraction to birth fluids by
more » ... birth fluids by the periparturient ewe leads to intense licking of the lamb. Grooming not only dries, cleans and stimulates the newborn it also facilitates bonding through learning of its individual odour. Ewes having twins should ideally stay on the birth site for at least six hours in order to establish a strong bond with both lambs and favour lambs survival. However, primiparous ewes or ewes having high levels of emotivity are more likely to exhibit poor maternal behaviour. In addition, difficult parturition and weather conditions have an indirect effect on the behaviour of the mother and are other major causes of lamb death. On the lamb's side, rapid access to the udder and early suckling are extremely important. Delayed lactation or insufficient colostrum yield may be fatal especially since suckling has strong rewarding properties in the establishment of a preference for the mother, which in turn increases lamb survival. Insufficient access to the udder in mothers leaving the birth site too soon after parturition, especially in twin-bearing ewes, could also partly account for the high incidence of loss of mother-young contact and subsequent death in such lambs. Strategies to improve neonatal survival should be aimed at maximising lamb vigour, colostrum production, and mutual mother-young bonding through adequate feeding in late pregnancy and selection on behaviour. energy reserve / colostrums / suckling / maternal behaviour / bonding / ewe / lamb / nutrition / survival * Corresponding author: the teat and suckle and to do so they must have well-adapted behaviour patterns immediately after birth. Early mother-young interactions are also crucial to ensure that a strong bond is established between the ewe and her neonate so that food is regularly supplied to the lamb. The primary functions of early maternal care are therefore to provide the lamb with colostrum to satisfy its metabolic needs and to protect it from aggression from the outside environment. The mother-young interactions Article published by EDP Sciences and available at or http://dx.
doi:10.1051/rnd:2006023 pmid:16824451 fatcat:q3ndigl5ybcdrbltd7wfj4fj6e