Effect of conception date and hind nutrition on fetal growth trajectory and gestation length of red deer (Cervus elaphus)

Scott, IC
Asher, GW
Jopson, N
Cox, N
Archer, JA
Stevens, DR
Barrell, GK
Journal Article
Fields of Research
ANZSRC::0702 Animal Production , ANZSRC::070202 Animal Growth and Development , ANZSRC::070203 Animal Management , ANZSRC::070204 Animal Nutrition , ANZSRC::070206 Animal Reproduction , ANZSRC::30 Agricultural, veterinary and food sciences , ANZSRC::31 Biological sciences , ANZSRC::41 Environmental sciences
© CSIRO 2015. This study tested the hypothesis that the negative association between gestation length and conception date in red deer is mediated by nutrition. Twenty-eight pregnant red deer were randomly allocated to four groups according to a 2 × 2 factorial design, with the factors conception date (14 March, E; 28 April, L) and level of nutrition (ad libitum, H; restricted, R). Animals were housed indoors in individual pens from early winter until calving and offered daily an ad libitum pelleted ration. The daily ration was then restricted from late winter in ER (134 days post-conception) and LR (89 days post-conception) groups, so that these hinds did not experience a seasonal increase in food intake. X-Ray computed tomography scans were taken at Days 120, 150, 180 and 210 of gestation (mid-late gestation) to estimate weight of various conceptus components. Growth rate of the total fetus was significantly higher in LH than in other treatments (P < 0.01) between Days 180 and 210 of gestation. Birthweight was not significantly different (P > 0.05) between treatments or calf sex. Birthweight was associated directly with change in hind liveweight (P ≤ 0.03) and body condition score during the third trimester of pregnancy (P ≤ 0.01), but was not significantly associated with gestation length (P ≤ 0.34). Gestation length was 4.4 days longer in LR than LH hinds (P ≤ 0.03) and was negatively associated with both food intake (P ≤ 0.03) and LW gain (P ≤ 0.02) during the final trimester of gestation. Feeding late-conceiving hinds an ad libitum diet of high-quality food during the third trimester of gestation maximises fetal growth and shortens gestation length.
© CSIRO 2015
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