Heat stress, divergent nutrition level, and late pregnancy in hair sheep: effects upon cotyledon development and litter weight at birth
Pure-bred embryos were transferred within and reciprocally between large (Suffolk) and small (Cheviot) breeds of sheep to establish 4 treatment groups: SinS (Suffolk embryos in Suffolk dams), SinC (Suffolk embryos in Cheviot dams), CinS (Cheviot embryos in Suffolk dams), and CinC (Cheviot embryos in Cheviot dams). The recipient ewes carried single fetuses to term. The maternal plasma concentrations of ovine placental lactogen (oPL), progesterone, IGF-1, FFA, and glucose were measured on d 50, 90, 120, and 140 of pregnancy. Birth weight, body dimensions, and placental characteristics of lambs were recorded at birth. There was a recipient ewe breed × lamb breed × time interaction for the concentration of oPL (P = 0.03), but no such interaction was observed for progesterone (P = 0.42), IGF-1 (P = 0.57), glucose (P = 0.36), or FFA (P = 0.72). There were no differences in oPL (P = 0.28) and progesterone (P = 0.34) concentrations between SinC and SinS ewes. The concentrations of FFA on d 140 (P = 0.008), and those of glucose on d 50 (P = 0.02) and 120 (P = 0.01), were greater in SinC ewes than in SinS ewes. The ewes in CinS had less FFA concentration (P = 0.002) at all time points than CinC ewes. The concentrations of IGF-1 on d 90 were greater (P = 0.004) in CinS ewes than CinC ewes, but did not differ (P = 0.16) on d 50, 120, and 140. The concentrations of glucose on d 50 (P = 0.001), 90 (P = 0.03), and 140 (P = 0.03) were less in CinS ewes compared with CinC ewes. The birth weight of SinC lambs (5.04 ± 0.20 kg) was lighter (P = 0.001) than SinS lambs (5.94 ± 0.19 kg), and body dimensions of SinC lambs were smaller (P = 0.01) than SinS lambs. Neither birth weight nor the body dimensions of CinS lambs differed (P = 0.24) from CinC lambs. Cotyledon number was reduced (P = 0.04) in the CinS (57.5 ± 6.3) compared with the SinS group (74.2 ± 5.9), whereas mean cotyledon weight in CinS (2.42 ± 0.20 g) was greater (P = 0.02) than SinS (1.74 ± 0.21 g). It was concluded that the large genotype lambs were lighter and smaller when born to small genotype dams; however, the birth weight or body dimensions of small genotype lambs did not differ when born to large genotype dams. This study suggests that plasma oPL, progesterone, IGF-1, FFA, and glucose concentrations at different times throughout pregnancy reflect the regulatory effect of the uterine environment on the development of the fetus.