Reproduction, Fertility and Development Reproduction, Fertility and Development Society
Vertebrate reproductive science and technology
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Effects of cobalt/vitamin B12 status in ewes on ovum development and lamb viability at birth

Linda M. Mitchell A , John J. Robinson A D , Robert G. Watt A , Thomas G. McEvoy A C , Cheryl J. Ashworth A C , John A. Rooke A C and Cathy M. Dwyer B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Sustainable Livestock Systems Group, SAC, Craibstone Estate, Bucksburn, Aberdeen AB21 9YA, Scotland.

B Sustainable Livestock Systems Group, SAC, Bush Estate, Penicuik, Midlothian EH26 0PH, Scotland.

C Present address: Sustainable Livestock Systems Group, SAC, Roslin Biocentre, Roslin, Midlothian EH25 9PS, Scotland.

D Corresponding author. Email: john.robinson@sac.ac.uk

Reproduction, Fertility and Development 19(4) 553-562 https://doi.org/10.1071/RD07012
Submitted: 16 January 2007  Accepted: 12 March 2007   Published: 4 May 2007

Abstract

Scottish Blackface ewes from cobalt-deficient farmland were fed a diet containing 0.06 mg cobalt per kg dry matter from approximately 30 days before embryo recovery/transfer until lambing. Ewes remained untreated (–Co; n = 82) or were given an intraruminal cobalt-containing bolus to compensate for the dietary deficit (+Co; n = 82). Ewes used as embryo donors (–Co, n = 17; +Co, n = 16) were artificially inseminated with semen from a single Suffolk sire. Day 6 embryos obtained from –Co and +Co donors were transferred in singleton to –Co and +Co recipients in a 2 × 2 factorial-designed experiment to determine the effects of cobalt/vitamin B12 status during the periconception period (factor 1) and pregnancy (factor 2) on lamb viability at birth. Mean (± s.e.m.) circulating concentrations of vitamin B12 in –Co and +Co donors at ovum recovery were 182 ± 10 and 1288 ± 64 pmol L–1, respectively (P < 0.001), and the number of corpora lutea per ewe ovulating was 9.9 ± 1.6 and 14.4 ± 1.3, respectively (P < 0.05). Treatment did not affect the proportion of recovered ova that contained >32 cells (viable) or the median stage of development (late morula), but viable ova recovered from –Co v. +Co ewes had a better morphological grade (2.0 ± 0.1 v. 2.20 ± 0.04, respectively; P < 0.01). There was no effect of treatment on the proportion of recipient ewes that became pregnant. Circulating concentrations of vitamin B12 were lower in –Co than +Co ewes during pregnancy (P < 0.001) and at birth in lambs born to –Co ewes compared with those born to +Co ewes (P < 0.001). There was no effect of donor or recipient cobalt/vitamin B12 status on lamb birthweight, neonatal vigour or neonatal rectal temperatures, but lambs derived from +Co v. –Co embryo donors were more active in the first 3 days after birth (P < 0.05). Results show that sub-clinical cobalt/vitamin B12 deficiency reduces ovulatory response in superovulated ewes and that periconception nutrition can affect neonatal lamb behaviour.


Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful to the Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department for financial support of this work. The authors thank John Rae, Calum Angus-Meldrum, Mark Ramsay and Brian Hosie for animal husbandry and veterinary advice and Sheena Robson, Marianne Farish, Emma Baxter, Jo Donbavand, Mark Farnworth, Verity Bowell and Lesley Smith for technical assistance at lambing time. The authors also thank colleagues in the SAC Consultancy Division for their help in sourcing animals and feed stuffs, and Claus Mayer of BioSS (Rowett Research Institute, Aberdeen, AB21 9SB) for advice regarding the statistical analyses.


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