Investigation of relationship between vitamin D status and reproductive fitness in Scottish hill sheep
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There is a growing interest in the influence of vitamin D on ovine non-skeletal health. The aim of this study was to explore the relationship between pre-mating vitamin D status, as assessed by serum concentrations of 25-Hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D; comprising D2 and D3] and subsequent reproductive performance of genetically unimproved Scottish Blackface (UBF), genetically improved Scottish Blackface (IBF) and Lleyn ewes kept under Scottish hill conditions. 25-Hydroxyvitamin D2 (25(OH)D2) and 25-Hydroxyvitamin D3 (25(OH)D3) concentrations were determined in serum samples harvested in November from ewes grazed outdoors. There were no significant differences in 25(OH)D2concentrations amongst the 3 genotypes. Lleyn ewes had significantly higher 25(OH)D3 and 25(OH)D concentrations than both Scottish Blackface ewe genotypes, whereas these vitamin D parameters did not differ significantly between the UBF and IBF ewes. Concentrations of 25(OH)D3 and 25(OH)D were positively associated with subsequent birth weights of singleton and of twin lamb litters. No significant associations between vitamin D status and number of lambs born or weaned per ewe were found. This study demonstrates that concentrations of cutaneously-derived 25(OH)D3, but not of orally consumed 25(OH)D2, differed between breeds. The positive association between ewe vitamin D status and offspring birth weight highlights the need for further investigations.
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