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Feeding behaviour of artificially reared Romane lambs.

TitleFeeding behaviour of artificially reared Romane lambs.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsDavid, I, Bouvier, F, Ricard, E, Ruesche, J, Weisbecker, J-L
Date Published2014 Jun
KeywordsAnimal Husbandry, Animals, Behavior, Animal, Feeding Behavior, Female, Litter Size, Milk, Sheep, Domestic, Time Factors

A consequence of increasing litter size in sheep is that a portion of the lambs have to be reared artificially. Detailed information about the pattern of milk consumption of artificially reared lambs would help improve their management. The purpose of this study is to describe the individual and group feeding behaviour of 94 Romane artificially reared lambs from 5 to 28 days of age using an electronic automatic lamb feeder. Animals were located in four pens of 8 to 15 lambs of similar age with one teat per pen. They were fed ad libitum. In our experimental situation (group rearing, continuous lightning) on average a lamb made 1.4±0.7 visits to the teat per meal and 9.5±3 meals per day. Mean meal duration was 247±158 s and the mean daily time spent feeding was 38±25 min. The mean quantity of milk intake was 176±132 ml per meal and 1.68±0.8 l per day. With age, the number of daily meals and their duration decreased while the quantity of milk consumed per meal and per day increased. Females tended to make more visits to the teat per meal and perform more meals per day but their milk consumption per meal was lower. The feed conversion ratio was 1.36±0.2. Synchrony in feeding (group meal) was estimated as the percentage of lambs that wanted to access the teat within the same short period (relative group meal size). On average 65% of lambs in the pen wanted to access the teat within the same period, but for 35% of group meals the relative group meal size was >90%. There was no consistency in the order in which lambs accessed the teat during a group meal. Our evaluation suggested that electronic automatic lamb feeders are tools that can provide, on a large scale, data describing the feeding behaviour of artificially reared lambs. It is then possible to study factors influencing these traits in order to improve the outcome of artificially reared lambs.

Alternate JournalAnimal
PubMed ID24666599
PubMed Central IDPMC4023569