Conception rate and fecundity of Dohne Merino ewes in a continuous mating system
A study was conducted to evaluate the conception rate and fecundity of Dohne Merino ewes in an intensive sheep production system, where continuous mating was applied. The study was conducted at the Kromme Rhee research farm. Ninety-two 3-year-old Dohne Merino ewes were used in the trial and allocated to irrigated-lucerne equal-sized paddocks of 0.85 ha. Rotational grazing was applied at a stocking rate of 15 ewes per hectare, with rams left with the ewes continuously. A self-formulated creep feed and lick was provided to the lambs and ewes, respectively, on an ad libitum basis. The experimental animals were weighed every second week and lambs were weaned at approximately 120 days of age. The statistical procedures indicated that 65.4% of the ewes conceived within 81 days after lambing. Analyses of variance (ANOVA) were performed on the observed variables. The Shapiro-Wilk test was performed to test for normality and Student’s-t least significant differences (LSD) were calculated at the 5% level of confidence, to compare the treatment means. Regression analyses were performed to establish the contribution of each variable to the predicted “days after lambing”. The stepwise selection method was executed in order to select the variables that significantly contributed to the predicted “days after lambing”. There was no significant difference in “days after lambing” and conception weight between ewes that produced single, twin or triplet lambs. Results also indicated that a more rapid breeding system is achievable on irrigated pastures. However, the sustainability of such a system needs to be tested further to determine the effect of the accelerated system on the productive lifespan of the ewes.
Keywords: Accelerated breeding, intensive sheep production, pastures