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Factors related to the risk of neonatal mortality, birth-weight and serum immunoglobulin concentration in lambs in the UK

Christley, R.M., Morgan, K.L., Parkin, T.D.H., French, N.P.
Preventive veterinary medicine 2003 v.57 no.4 pp. 209-266
mastitis, lambing, farms, data collection, models, risk factors, spring, immunoglobulins, lambs, ewes, neonatal mortality, body condition, litter size, birth weight, United Kingdom
Neonatal-lamb mortality represents an economic loss and welfare concern. Two factors often associated with the risk of mortality are birth-weight and serum immunoglobulin concentration. We used data from two studies to investigate risk factors for mortality between 2 and 14 days of age and factors affecting birth-weight and serum immunoglobulin concentration at 48 h of age. Dataset 1 included 1339 lambs born on eight farms during the 1995 spring lambing season; dataset 2 included 3172 lambs on seven farms during the 1991 spring lambing season. To account for some of the potential clustering within the data, multilevel models were used. Most (>75%) of the variation in the risk of mortality was at the lamb level. In dataset 1, factors significantly associated with increased odds of lamb mortality included low birth-weight and low serum immunoglobulin concentration. In dataset 2, significant risk factors for mortality included low birth-weight, ewe body-condition score, being born late in the season (relative to other lambs on the farm) and being born in multiple litters. There was a significant interaction between the effects of litter size and birth-weight. (Serum immunoglobulin concentration was not available for dataset 2.) More than half of the variation in birth-weight was at the ewe level, 27% at the lamb level, and 18% at the farm level (dataset 1). Single birth and being male were associated with increased birth-weight in both datasets. In dataset 2 only, increasing ewe condition score and birth early in the study period were also associated with increased birth-weight. Fifty-six percent of the variation in immunoglobulin concentration was at the lamb level, 36% at the ewe level and only 7% at the farm level. Factors associated with reduced serum immunoglobulin concentration included early or late birth in the lambing season, being born later than 14 days after the first lamb born on the farm, multiple-birth litters and maternal mastitis.