Association of lameness with milk yield and lactation curves in Chios dairy ewes
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The objective of the study was twofold: (i) to quantify the differences in daily milk yield (DMY) and total milk yield (TMY) between lame and non-lame dairy ewes and (ii) to determine the shape of lactation curves around the lameness incident. The overall study was a prospective study of lameness for the surveyed sheep population, with a nested study including the selection of matching controls for each lame ewe separately. Two intensively reared flocks of purebred Chios ewes and a total of 283 ewes were used. Data, including gait assessment and DMY records, were collected on a weekly basis during on-farm visits across the milking period. A general linear model was developed for the calculation of lactation curves of lame and non-lame ewes, whereas one-way ANOVA was used for the comparisons between lame ewes and their controls. Lameness incidence was 12·4 and 16·8% on Farms A and B, respectively. Average DMY in lame ewes was significantly lower (213·8 g, P < 0·001) compared with the rest of the flock, where DMY averaged 1·340 g. The highest DMY reduction in lame ewes was observed during the week 16 of the milking period (P < 0·001), whereas the reduction of DMY, for lame ewes, remained significant at P < 0·001 level from week 8 to week 28 of milking. Comparisons between lame and controls revealed that at the week of lameness diagnosis a significant DMY reduction (P ≤ 0·001) was observed in lame ewes (about 32·5%), which was maximised 1 week later (35·8%, P ≤ 0·001) and continued for several weeks after recovery, resulting in 19·3% lower TMY for lame ewes for the first 210 d of the milking period (P < 0·01). Moreover, at flock level, TMY for non-lame and lame ewes, as calculated by the general linear model, was 318·9 and 268·0 kg, respectively. The results of this study demonstrate evidence of significant financial losses in dairy sheep due to lameness which, however, need to be accurately estimated in further, more detailed, analyses.
Journal Title/Title of Proceedings
Journal of Dairy Research
Copyright © Proprietors of Journal of Dairy Research 2015 This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Cambridge University Press in a revised form with their editorial input. The final published version is available online: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0022029915000059