Seasonal variation of voluntary food intake and metabolic rate in three contrasting breeds of sheep

Iason, G.R.; Sim, D.A.; Foreman, E.; Fenn, P.; Elston, D.A.

Animal Production 58(3): 381-387


ISSN/ISBN: 0003-3561
DOI: 10.1017/s0003356100007327
Accession: 002488204

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Voluntary food intake (VFI) of chopped timothy hay and metabolic rate were each measured in each month of the year in six non-breeding ewes of each of three breeds. Metabolic rate was measured using indirect calorimetry over a range of food intakes and adjusted for intake to all estimated maintenance metabolic rate (MMR). The breeds compared were the Dorset Horn (DT), Scottish Blackface (BF) and Shetland (SH), the first being less seasonal in reproductive and other characteristics than the other two which are hill or northern latitude breeds. There was significant overall variation between months in VFI which are higher in the summer (July to September) than in the winter (December to February) months (P lt 0.001). There was a significant breed times month interaction (P lt 0.01), the seasonal effect being most strongly observed in the BF and SH ewes, whose VFI in summer was proportionately 0.1 greater than the year-round mean but was 0.1 lower in the winter. The DT ewes showed much less seasonal variation in VFI. There was no overall difference in VFI between breeds (DT: 43.7; BF: 49.5; SH: 48.1 g dry matter per M-0.75 live weight per day, P gt 0.1). Although MMR varied significantly between months (P lt 0.001), there was no systematic variation between summer and winter. There was no significant breed X month interaction, but the MMR differed significantly (P lt 0.001) between breeds giving a high overall MMR in BF (DT: 322.7; BF: 356.6; SH: 324.5 kJ/kg M-0.75 per day). No significant correlation existed (P gt 0.05) between the monthly mean MMR and VFI in any of the breeds. The causal relationship between seasonal cycles of basal metabolic rate and VFI is questioned.