CZAAWE Resource Article

Lambs prevented from suckling their mothers display behavioral, immune and endocrine disturbances
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
Physiology & Behavior
The aim of the experiment was to assess the effects of either maternal deprivation or prevented suckling on lambs. Thirty Comisana lambs were assigned to a control dam-suckled group (DS) and two test groups of 10 each. Test lambs were maintained with their mothers 24 to 30 h after parturition and subsequently offered ewe milk from buckets: EM lambs were separated from their mothers, while EM+D animals were reared with their dams but suckling was denied by covering ewe udders with juta bags. Behavioral, immune and cortisol responses of lambs were assessed throughout the experiment. EM+D lambs spent less time (P<.001) on investigative behavior compared to the two other groups. When isolated in a novel environment, EM+D lambs exhibited a shorter duration of movement (P<.01) and a longer latency time compared to DS and EM lambs (P<.001 and P<.05, respectively) as well as a higher number of bleats (P<.01) than EM lambs. EM+D lambs also displayed higher (P<.001) plasma cortisol levels than the other two groups when isolated at 4 days of age. When subjected to discrimination tests, EM+D lambs spent less time near their companions (P<.01) than EM lambs and took a longer time to reach their pen mates (P<.01) than DS and EM lambs. EM+D lambs displayed reduced growth (P<.001) compared to DS animals during the 0-7 and 8-14-day periods. We conclude that frustration arising from maternal feeding deprivation results in altered endocrine and behavioral responses and reduced growth suggesting emotional disturbances of lambs.