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Maternal Supplementation with Dietary Betaine during Gestation to Improve Twin Lamb Survival

  • Brougham, Billie-Jaye1
  • Weaver, Alice C.2
  • Swinbourne, Alyce M.F.1
  • Lewis Baida, Bobbie E.1
  • Kelly, Jennifer M.2
  • Walker, Simon K.2
  • Kleemann, David O.2
  • van Wettere, William H.E.J.1
  • 1 (W.H.v.W.)
  • 2 (D.O.K.)
Published Article
Animals : an Open Access Journal from MDPI
Publication Date
Sep 26, 2020
DOI: 10.3390/ani10101749
PMID: 32993073
PMCID: PMC7601746
PubMed Central


Simple Summary High incidences of twin lamb mortality constrain the reproductive efficiency and productivity of Merino sheep flocks. This study determined whether supplementing the diets of pregnant, twin-bearing ewes with 2 or 4 g/day of betaine would improve lamb viability and survival to weaning. Feeding ewes 2 g/day of betaine for the duration of pregnancy decreased lamb survival but increased lamb body weight at weaning. Whereas, lamb vigour and early post-natal survival were improved following ewe supplementation with 4 g/day of betaine during the second half of pregnancy. Maternal supplementation with 4 g/day of betaine during the second half of pregnancy may, therefore, be a useful strategy to improve twin lamb survival. Abstract Betaine increases the synthesis of creatine, an energy-rich amino acid that increases adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and has neuroprotective properties which may improve post-natal lamb survival. This study determined whether maternal betaine supplementation during gestation would improve body weight, thermoregulation, time to stand and suck, colostrum intake and survival to weaning of twin lambs. Twin-bearing Merino ewes received dietary betaine at either 0 g/day (Control, CTL), 2 g/day from ram introduction to parturition (Early betaine, EB) or 4 g/day from Day 80 of gestation to parturition (Late betaine, LB). Ewes were housed individually during parturition and measures were collected at 4, 24 and 72 h and Day 7 post-partum, and at marking (53.2 ± 0.2 days of age) and weaning (99.3 ± 0.2 days of age). The EB treatment resulted in heavier lambs at weaning compared with CTL and LB lambs ( p < 0.05). Time to stand and suck from birth was longer in EB lambs ( p < 0.05), whereas, the interval from birth to first suck was shorter for LB lambs ( p < 0.05). Lamb survival rate was the highest for LB lambs at 72 h and Day 7 ( p < 0.05), and lowest for EB lambs on Day 7 ( p < 0.05). These data indicated that betaine supplementation at 4 g/day during the second half of pregnancy improved twin lamb survival to Day 7 and shortened the interval from birth to first suck; whereas feeding ewes 2 g/day of betaine for the duration of pregnancy increased twin lamb body weight at weaning, but increased both the time to attain behavioural milestones and mortalities before Day 7.

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