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Keywords:

  • protected fat;
  • short-term;
  • ovarian activity;
  • metabolites;
  • ewes;
  • subtropics;
  • flushing;
  • reproductive performance

Summary

This study was designed to study the effect of short-term supplementation with rumen-protected fat during the late luteal phase on reproduction and metabolism of sheep during breeding season. Seventy-six ewes (Rahmani, Barki and Awassi × Barki) were allocated to two groups considering genotype: the control ewes (C-group) received a maintenance diet, and the fat-supplemented ewes (F-group) received the maintenance diet plus 50 g/head/day of rumen- protected fat (Megalac) for 9 days during which oestrus was synchronized. The latter had been accomplished using double intramuscular injection of prostaglandin F (PGF) 11 days apart. Ovarian activity, serum concentration of cholesterol, glucose, insulin and reproductive performance variables were recorded. Data were analysed considering treatment (group) and genotype. Supplementation had positive effects on the overall mean serum concentrations of cholesterol (p < 0.05), glucose (p < 0.05) on day 6 of nutritional treatment and insulin (p = 0.07) on day 8. Fat supplementation did not affect the total number of follicles, follicle populations and ovulation rate. However, fat-supplemented Rahmani ewes tended to have higher ovulation rate compared with other breeds (treatment × breed interaction, p = 0.06). Treatment also did not affect the mean concentration of serum estradiol or progesterone. Supplemented ewes had higher conception (p = 0.06) and lambing rates (p < 0.05) compared with control. In conclusion, short-term supplementation with rumen-protected fat as a source of energy around breeding time improved metabolism, conception and lambing rates of ewes without effects on steroidogenic capacity and ovarian activity being apparent.