Livestock Research for Rural Development 22 (10) 2010 Notes to Authors LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Effect of supplementation on late pregnancy and early lactation of body weight of desert ewes and their lambs

A O Idris, C Kijora*, F M El-Hag** and A M Salih***

Faculty of Natural Resources and Environmental Studies, Peace University, P.O. Box 20, El Fulla, Sudan
* Department of Plant and Animal Sciences, Humboldt-University of Berlin, Philippstr. 13, Building No. 9, 10115 Berlin, Germany
** Agricultural Research Corporation, El-Obeid Research Station, Box 429, El Obeid, Sudan
*** Faculty of Animal Production, University of Khartoum, P.O. Box 32, Khartoum-North, Sudan


Supplementary feeding experiment was carried out with desert ewes prior to  late pregnancy days and during lactation period at Agricultural Research Station, El-Obeid, North Kordofan, Sudan. The aim of the study was to investigate the effect of supplementation on body weight of lactating ewes and their lambs in the dry season. The ewes were allocated to one of four treatment groups, one group was the control as in farmer practice and the other three groups were fed with rations composed from ground nut cake, sorghum, molasses and Roselle seeds (Hibiscus sabdariffa ).


The results indicated that, supplementation in late pregnancy and during early lactation had significant effect (P < 0.05) on body weight of dams and their lambs. Body weights were highest for the supplemented dams compared with the control group. Lambs suckling on control dams recorded lowest weights, also supplementary feeding improved lamb weights at birth and the 60 day post-partum.

Keywords: desert ewes, early lactation, late pregnancy, supplementation, weight, lambs


Sudan desert sheep and their crosses represent 80 % of the sheep found in Sudan and mainly predominant north of 12º N (Devendra and Mcleroy 1982) they are raised mainly under harsh dry land farming conditions for meat production (Khalafalla and Suleiman 1992). El-Hag et al (2001)  reported that, the  nutritional limitation, low nutritive value of the range, high  ambient  temperature,  scarcity  of feed and  water are have great effect on the production of the sheep in semi arid area of Kordofan state.


Sudan desert sheep are entirely dependant on grazing natural rangeland and forest, they prefer short grasses and they have difficulty in eating coarse feedstuff. While they are not credited with browsing on bush, thorn bush and trees. The most critical period for range sheep in the semi desert zone of Sudan is from February to June, when the ambient temperature becomes hot and range grazing is scanty and depleted of nutrients (Cook and Fadlalla 1987).


This study was undertaken to evaluate the effects of local ingredients concentrates on body weight of lactating desert ewes and their lambs in the dry season. The main ultimate objective was to introduce supplementation concept to nomadic herd owners.


Material and methods  

Study area 


The study was conducted at Agricultural Research station, El-Obeid, North Kordofan state (latitude11˚:15̀-16˚:30̀ N and longitudes 27˚-32˚ E), Sudan. Most of North Kordofan state lies within arid and semi-arid ecological zones. The average maximum temperature varies between 30 and 35˚C during most of the year with peaks above 40˚C during hot summer. The rainy season extends from July to October, reaching it peaks in August. The annual rainfall ranges from 75 mm in the extreme north about 500mm in south and with average 280 mm (Technoserve 1987). The northern part of area is covered with sandy soils which is originally either stabilized or mobile sand dunes and the southern part is predominantly silty clay. The vegetation varies from north to south. In the north grass land and shrubs predominate while bushes and trees are common in the south (Harrison and Jackson 1958; Vogt 1995).


Experimental procedure and feed supplementation


This experiment was carried out in ewes that lambed in the dry season (March-April) when there is not enough feed and the pasture is poor. A total of 32 ewes 2 to 6 years old reared in natural range conditions were selected during late pregnancy days. Ewes were allocated to one of four treatment groups (n = 8/group). The control group was kept as in farmer practice without any supplementation (CTL). The second, third and fourth groups were supplemented with diets 1 composed of  groundnut seed cake, Roselle seeds, sorghum and molasses (GRS-5%M ), diet 2 composed of groundnut seed cake, Roselle seeds, and sorghum(GRS), and diet 3 composed of groundnut seed cake, Roselle seeds, sorghum and molasses(GRS-7.5%M ), respectively .The amount of the diets is illustrated in table 1 and all the ingredients used in this experiment were grown in the study area and Roselle seeds (Hibiscus sabdariffa ) is a species of Hibiscus native to the Old World tropics.

Table 1.  Composition of the diets ( % ) and Chemical composition (g/kg dry matter) of the supplements and calculated energy content .



Diet 1

(GRS-5%M )

Diet 2


Diet 3

(GRS-7.5%M )








Roselle seeds




Groundnut seed cake




Common salt




Salt lick




Chemical composition




Dry matter




Crude protein




Crude fibre




Crude fat
























Ca g / kg DM




P g / kg DM




Energy density, Mcal DE/kg DM




In vitro OM digestibility, %




NDF: neutral detergent fiber ; ADF: acid detergent fiber ;ADL: acid detergent lignin ;

HEMI:  hemi cellulose (NDF-ADF); CELLU: cellulose (ADF-ADL). OM ; organic matter.

GRS-5%M; Ground nut cake, Roselle seeds, Sorghum and 5% Molasses

GRS  ;Ground nut cake, Roselle seeds and Sorghum

GRS-7.5%M  ;Ground nut cake, Roselle seeds, Sorghum and 7.5% Molasses.

Live  weight and of the ewes and lambs were recorded within 4 h after birth using, weights of ewes and lambs were recorded weekly till weaning weight (day 60).  Date, type of birth and sex of lamb were recorded. At weaning, lamb survival was calculated for each treatment group.


Analytical procedures


The analysis performed to experimental diets according to A.O.A.C. and Goering and Van Soest (1991). The content of the metabolizable energy (ME, MJ / kg DM) was calculated from table values of energy content of the components.


All ewes were allowed for 2 weeks as adaptation period before lambing. Experimental animals were maintained on pasture and supplemented with treatments until day 60. After birth animal were offered individually 200 g / head daily in the morning at 6:00 am. The lambs were separated from their mothers after suckling in the morning.


Statistical analyses


Data on ewes' weight at birth and weekly body weight changes were analyzed using a least square model with supplement and age as fixed effects and the random error (Harvey 1990). Lambs birth weight and weekly body weight changes were analyzed with the same model using supplement, birth type and lamb sex as fixed effects and the random error term. Significant differences among sub class means were tested using Duncan's new multiple range test (Duncan 1995).



The effect of supplementation on ewes body weight change, during early lactation is shown in table (2). Analysis of variance revealed significant differences (P < 0.05) in body weight (BW) of lactating ewes. In the first and second week of lactation, body weight was highest for supplemented groups. When lactation curve advanced the significant differences among the three treatments began to appear, in the third week. Dams fed with GRS recorded heavier weights, and then followed by GRS-5%M and GRS-7.5%M. Ewe's age had significant effect on weight change (Table 2).

Table 2.  Effect of diet treatments and the age on body weight of ewes (mean ±S.E) Kg during the experiment.




















40.2 ±1.6 a

38.8 ±1.4a

37.4 ±1.3b

39.1 ± 1.5a

38.6± 1.4 a

39.5±1.6 a

40.6± 1.6a

41.4± 1.7 a


37.6 ±1.7a

37.8 ±1.5a

38.0 ±1.4a


35.4± 1.6b

36.2± 1.7 a

36.5± 1.8b

37.5± 1.9b


39.5 ± 1.7a

35.6 ±1.5a

35.7 ±1.4c

36.4 ±1.7b

37.7± 1.6a

37.6± 1.7 a

38.6± 1.8a

37.4± 1.9b


29.6 ±1.6b



30.0 ±1.5c

31.0± 1.4c

31.4± 1.6 a

31.2± 1.6c

33.8± 1.7a










3≥ years

33.2 ±1.2b


31.9 ±1.0b

32.5 ±1.2 b

32.6± 1.1b

33.5± 1.2 a

34.3± 1.3 b

35.1± 1.4 b

3 <years

40.3 ±1.1a

38.6  1.1a

38.6 ±1.0a

39.2 ± 1.1a

38.8± 1.0a

38.9± 1.1a

39.2± 1.1 a

40.0± 1.2 a

abcd Means in the same column bearing different superscripts are significantly (P<0.05) different.

GRS-5%M; Ground nut cake, Roselle seeds, Sorghum and 5% Molasses;  GRS  ;Ground nut cake, Roselle seeds and Sorghum

GRS-7.5%M  ;Ground nut cake, Roselle seeds, Sorghum and 7.5% Molasses. ;  CTL: Control

The results showed that,  animals with age more than 3 years began to gain weight in the fourth week of lactation, compared with animals less than 3 years ,that their weight's increased in the sixth week.


Table (3) presents the effects of supplementary feeding, lamb sex and birth type on lamb weight.

Table 3.  Effect of pre-partum supplementary feeding and age on lamb body weight (mean± S.E) Kg.


Birth weight




















3.8 ±1.0b

5.9 ±0.2ab

7.3 ±0.3b

8.7 ±0.4b

9.8 ±0.5a

10.8 ±0.5a

10.7 ±0.4b

12.4 ±0.6 a

14.1 ±0.5 a


3.5 ±0.1b

6.0 ±0.3ab

8.4 ±0.6a

9.1 ±0.6a

10.9 ±0.6a

11.5 ±0.7a

12.1 ±0.6a

12.0 ±0.8a

12.1 ±0.7 c


4.0 ±0.1ab

5.6 ±0.2b

7.1 ±0.4b

9.6 ±0.5a

10.5 ±0.5a

11.3 ±0.6a

11.2 ±0.4ab

13.2 ±0.60a

13.0 ±0.6b


3.7 ±0.1b

5.0 ±0.3bc

6.3 ±0.4c

6.8 ±0.5c

7.8 ±0.6b

8.8 ±0.7b

9.3 ±0.5c

9.60 ±0.7b

10.3 ±0.7d

Lamb sex











3.9 ±1.0a

5.5 ±0.2b

6.7 ±0.3b

8.0 ±0.3b

8.9 ±0.4b

9.8 ±0.4b

10.2 ±0.3b

11.8 ±0.4

12.5 ±0.4


3.7 ±0.1b

5.9 ±0.2a

7.8 ±0.4a

9.5 ±0.5a

10.8 ±0.6a

11.6 ±0.6a

11.5 ±0.5a

12.3 ±0.6

12.8 ±0.6

Type of birth











4.0 ±0.1a

6.2 ±0.2a

8.1 ±0.4a

9.8 ±0.5a

10.9 ±0.6a

11.7 ±0.6a

11.8 ±0.5a

13.0 ±0.6a

13.0 ±0.6 a


3.6 ±0.1b

5.1 ±0.2b

6.4 ±0.3b

7.6 ±0.3b

8.8 ±0.4b

9.6 ±0.4b

9.9 ±0.3b

11.1 ±0.4b

12.3 ±0.4b






















4.1 ±0.1

6.6 ±0.4

9.2 ±0.7a

11.4 ±0.9a

12.7 ±1.1a

13.4 ±1.0a

12.9 ±0.9a

13.4 ±1.1

12.9 ±1.1


4.0 ±0.9

5.8 ±0.2

7.0 ±0.4b

8.2 ±0.5b

9.1 ±0.5b

10.1 ±0.5b

10.7 ±0.4b

12.6 ±0.6

13.1 ±0.6












3.4 ±1.0b

5.2 ±0.2

6.4 ±0.4

7.5 ±0.5


9.7 ±0.5


11.2 ±0.6

12.7 ±0.6


3.8 ±0.1a

5.1 ±0.2

6.4 ±0.3

7.7 ±0.5

8.7 ±0.6

9.5 ±0.6

9.6 ±0.5b

11.1 ±0.7

12.0 ±0.6

abcd  Means in the same column bearing different superscripts are significantly different (P<0.05).

GRS-5%M; Ground nut cake, Roselle seeds, Sorghum and 5% Molasses;  GRS; Ground nut cake, Roselle seeds and Sorghum,
GRS-7.5%M; Ground nut cake, Roselle seeds, Sorghum and 7.5% Molasses ; 
CTL :Control

Supplementation had significant effect (P < 0.05) on lamb birth weight. Lambs suckling dams supplemented with GRS-7.5%M recorded heavier weights at birth. Lambs suckling on control ewes recorded lower weights at birth and during the experimental period. Lambs suckling ewes fed GRS-5%M and GRS had heavier weight. Lambs weight had no significant differences (P > 0.05) among the three diets in the fourth, fifth and seventh week of lactation. 1n last week, lambs whose dams were supplemented with GRS-5%M were heaviest, and then followed by GRS-7.5%M and GRS. Lamb weight increases with supplementation during first lactation weeks. In Table (3), Male lambs had heavier body weight at birth than female lambs.  Type of birth had a highly significant effect on birth weight and on weight of lamb at 8 weeks post-partum. Single lambs were significantly heavier than twins at birth and in all the experimental period. The study showed that, the interaction between birth type and sex had no significant effect (P > 0.05) on lamb body weight at birth, in first and last two weeks (table 3).



Supplementation of ewes during early lactation had significant effect body weight change, ewes on framer's practice had lower body weight compared with fed groups, this may be due to that, animals may not get their enough nutrient requirements to meet mammary growth and milk production. Ewes on control flock began to mobilize their reserve more than ewes on fed group. This explanation is in line with findings of Idris (2001).  Njoya et al (2005) reported that, protein supplementation to ewes grazing low quality pasture improved their body weight. Supplementation of pregnant ewes during late two weeks of gestation may provide adequate energy and protein, which supports embryonic and foetal growth and maintenance of animal physiological needs. Similar results were noted by Oeak et al (2005), Sairanen et al (2006) and El-Hag et al (1998). Non supplemented ewes lost more body reserves compared with supplemented groups, same results were recorded by Rafiq et al (2006).


Ewe's age had effect on weight change, older animals gained weight earlier compared with younger, These findings highlight that, nutritional status of older ewes mobilize their body weight more than younger ewe and lactation curve may be affected with dam's age, these findings showed that, lambs from younger ewes would be lighter than lambs from older ewes. These findings highlight that, lambs from supplemented dams were suckling more milk than lambs born from control ewes. Similar results reported by Nnadi et al (2006) and Njoya et al (2005).


Supplementation, lamb sex and birth type had effect on lamb weight changes. Lambs suckling supplemented dams recorded heavier weights at birth and during the experimental period. Findings of Rafiq et al (2006) had revealed that lamb’s birth weight is significantly and positively correlated with ewe BW. Similar observation was supported by El-Nasr et al (1994) and Zahari et al (1994). These workers reached a conclusion that feeding a balanced concentrate promotes better growth.


Male lambs had heavier body weight at birth than female lambs. These results agree with the findings of Ali et al (1999), EL-Toum (2005) and Boujenane and Kansari (2002). They indicated that males were significantly heavier than females at birth. In first six weeks of lactation, female lambs showed heavier weight than male lambs. These results disagree with many researchers (Mavrogenis 1996a, b; Bichard and Cooper 1966; Gjedrem 1967; Kumar et al (2007). They reported that, the body weight of male lamb was higher than the female lambs at all ages.


 Single lambs were heavier than twins at birth and in all the experimental period. Lactation might have been inadequate in ewes with multiple births to satisfy all the lambs. Single lambs are suckling more milk than twins, for this reason single lamb had faster growth rate than twins. The results are supported by many researches obtained by Macit et al (2002); Macit et al (2001); Analla et al (1998); Cloete et al (2007); Boujenane and Kansari (2002); Rastogi (2001); Njoya et al (2005) and Tuah and Baah (1985). These results disagree with El-Toum (2005) and Ngere and Aboagye (1981), the authors found that, live weights of single and twin were similar.


The fluctuation of lamb’s weight during the last weeks may be due to the result of decrease in milk yield. Male and female single lambs were slightly heavier than male and female twins. This result was in line with findings of El-Toum (2005). The current results explained that, birth type had more effect on lamb's weight than sex. It is logic that, single lambs grew faster than twins, because twins' lambs consumed lower milk than singles. However many researchers have reported a significant influence of type of birth with single born lambs being heavier  than  their  twins  (Fall et al 1982;  Sulieman et al 1990).


Conclusion and recommendation 


This study was supported by financial grants from German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). The authors wish to thank Baballa El-Faki, Abdalla Fadllalmula, Hassan Yassen and G.Khair for their assistance with livestock handling and management, the Nutrition Laboratory staff, Sarsor, G. and Hella, M. Institute of Animal Sciences, Humboldt University of Berlin, for nutritional analyses.



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Received 10 May 2010; Accepted 21 August 2010; Published 1 October 2010

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