Interpretive Summary: Maternal melatonin implants improve twin Merino lamb survival
By: Anne Kamiya, MS
Ensuring the survival of preweaning lambs is vital for both animal welfare and the mitigation of production losses. The mortality rate of twin and singleton lambs is high (greater than 30 and 10 percent of births, respectively) and may benefit from a dietary supplement approach. Melatonin is a hormone supplement widely known for its role in the circadian rhythm. Less popularized is melatonin’s ability to improve blood circulation and its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Based on this knowledge, giving melatonin to pregnant ewes may potentially provide some benefit to the health and survival of lambs.
In this recent Journal of Animal Science study, researchers gave Merino ewes pregnant with twin lambs melatonin implants. They hypothesized that lamb mortality would decrease with increased melatonin supplementation. Either one or two slow-release melatonin supplements (18 mg each) were implanted into ewes at 70 days and 90 days gestation. A separate control group received no melatonin implants. Lambs were then monitored after birth, and up until weaning. Preweaning lamb mortality significantly decreased in all of the groups where pregnant ewes were given melatonin implants compared to the control group.
Overall, the results of this study are very promising. Maternal melatonin supplementation may potentially improve the survival rate of preweaning lambs. Considering that this was a small study, larger studies (possibly looking at both twin and singleton lambs) are needed to reaffirm these results. Additional research aimed at exploring the biological reasons why maternal melatonin may improve the survival of preweaning lambs is also an area of interest.
The original article, Maternal melatonin implants improve twin Merino lamb survival, will be viewable in the Journal of Animal Science website.