• sheep;
  • leptin;
  • blood metabolites;
  • milk fatty acids


This study evaluated the carry-over effects of ewe body reserves during early pregnancy on peri-partum adipose tissue metabolism. Forty-nine multiparous ewes were divided in three categories according to their body condition score (BCS) at day 30 of pregnancy (BCS < 3, 2.5–2.75; BCS = 3; BCS > 3, 3.25–3.5). Live-weight (LW) and BCS gains from 1st to 4th month of pregnancy were greater in ewes with BCS < 3 and 3 than in >3 animals. In contrast, in the last month of pregnancy, there was BCS decrease in all groups, although LW continued increasing. There were no differences in LW or BCS across ewe categories during this period. Peripheral leptin levels throughout the three last weeks of pregnancy were greater in ewes with BCS > 3 than in the rest, but this difference did not persist after lambing. Plasma metabolites related to energy metabolism, milk yield and lamb growth were not affected by ewe BCS in early pregnancy. Long-chain saturated milk fatty acids (FA) (C16–C24) were greater in ewes with lowest BCS (<3 and 3). Ewes with greater BCS showed greater monounsaturated and lowest polyunsaturated milk FA content. Ewe post-mating body reserves affect both pre-partum leptinaemia and post-partum milk polyunsaturated fatty acids content, but it had little effect on lamb performance.