Journal of the Department of Agriculture, Western Australia, Series 4


Sheep, Ewes, Female fertility, Ovulation, Feeding


Nutrition | Sheep and Goat Science | Veterinary Physiology

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Western Australia's sheep farmers are familiar with the low ovulation rate of Merino ewes and how this limits the lambing performance of ewe flocks.

One way in which ovulation rate and therefore lambing percentage may be increased is to feed seed of sweet lupin (Lupinus augustifolius) to ewes at mating. However, Department of Agriculture research has found that these increases do not show up consistently, and that there is considerable variability between farms.

If improved nutrition is to be a useful way to increasing ovulation rate, the mechanism by which nutrition affects ovulation rate must first be understood. This article describes the initial stages of a Department of Agriculture research programme designed to investigate this biological phenomenon.

The question asked first was which of the many nutrients provided by lupin seed was the one responsible for the increase in ovulation rate? This was tackled by measuring the amount of each major nutrient available to sheep when lupins were given as a supplementary feed. These nutrients were then given one by one, in a purified form, to sheep to determine which nutrients resulted in increased ovulation rate.