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Effects of Contrasting Photoperiods and Temperatures on

Performance Traits of Confinement-Reared Ewe Lambs

B. D. Schanbacher, G. L. Hahn and J. A. Nienaber

J Anim Sci 1982. 55:620-626.

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B. D. Schanbacher, G. L. Hahn and J. A. Nienaber

US Department of Agriculture 2'3, Clay Center, NE 68933

interaction (P<.01) between photoperiod and
The effects of contrasting photoperiods temperature was found. Wool growth was
(16L:8D vs 8L: 16D) and ambient temperatures similar for lambs exposed to 16L:8D and
(5 C vs 18 C vs 31 C) on performance traits of 8L: 16D photoperiods, but was reduced (P<.05)
ewe lambs have been evaluated. Seventy-two by exposure to increasing environmental
lambs were paired and allotted to one of six temperatures. These results suggest that environ-
treatment groups in a 2 • 3 factorial experiment. mental temperature and photoperiod indepen-
The lambs were fed a pelleted diet ad libitum. dently contribute to the growth and perform-
throughout the 14-wk study (i.e., as Iambs ance of confinement-reared ewe lambs and that
progressed from 12 to 26 wk of age). "Analysis each of these variables can be adjusted to
of performance and carcass data showed that optimize the efficiency of lamb production.
both photoperiod and temperature affected (Key Words: Ewe Lambs, Photoperiod-Temper-
growth rate (P<.01), feed intake (P<.01), final ature, Environment, Growth, Performance.)
weight (P<.01) and carcass weight (P<.01).
Although feed efficiency tended to be greater Introduction
for lambs exposed to the 16L:8D photoperiod, Numerous environmental factors, acting sep-
this characteristic was not affected significantly. arately or collectively, affect animal perform-
An interaction between photoperiod and ance and the efficiency of livestock production.
temperature was not observed for growth rate, Ambient temperature and photoperiod are two
final weight or carcass weight. Final weight and
factors believed to significantly affect perform-
carcass weight for lambs in the six treatment
ance of the growing-finishing lamb. Air temper-
groups were: 52.5 and 27.7 kg for 16L:8D, 5 C;
ature, particularly above the thermoneutral
49.2 and 25.8 kg for 8L:16D, 5C; 48.1 and
zone, results in one or more physiological
25.3 kg for 16L:8D, 18 C;45.2 and 23.5 k g f o r
adjustments that may adversely affect perform-
8L:16D, 18 C; 42.0 and 21.1 kg for 16L:8D,
ance (Soderquist and Knox, 1967; Knox,
31 C and 36.0 and 17.4 kg for 8L:16D, 31 C.
1976); however, unshorn sheep tolerate cold
Carcass merit, including quality and yield, was
environments extremely well (Webster, 1976).
not affected (P>.05) by treatment. Whereas
In contrast to short photoperiods (8L:16D),
serum prolactin concentrations were elevated in
long photoperiods (16L:8D) increase the
lambs exposed to the 16L:8D photoperiod, an
growth rates of both ram and Wether lambs
(Schanbacher and Crouse, 1980; 1981).
A factorial experiment was conducted to
1The authors wish to acknowledge Mr. Bruce Lar- determine the effects of environmental temper-
sen, Mr. Allen Maddy and Mr. Wei Wu for technical as- ature and photoperiod on performance traits of
sistance during the study; Mr. Michael MacNeil and market lambs. An evaluation of these environ-
Ms. Becky Bauer for helping with the statistical anal-
yses, and cooperation of the Nebraska Agr. Exp. Sta., mental constraints provides a better under-
Univ. of Nebraska, Lincoln. standing of normal seasonal variation in lamb
2 Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research performance and provides a basis for selecting
Center, ARS. those environmental conditions that improve
3Mention of trade names or companies does not
eonstitute an implied warranty or endorsement by the the overall efficiency of lamb production. This
authors or USDA. information is important for design and man-

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agement of confinement facilities to be used in data were analyzed by analysis of covariance

intensified sheep production systems. using the method for least-squares with unequal
subclass numbers (Harvey, 1975). The model
Materials and Methods included the main effects (treatment) of
Treatments. Seventy-two unshorn crossbred temperature and photoperiod. Initial weight
ewe lambs were weaned at about 10 wk of age, was included as a covariate when analyzing
stratified by age and weight, and randomly performance traits and carcass weight, whereas
assigned to one of six treatment groups. The carcass weight was included as a covariate when
twelve lambs in each group were subsequently analyzing aspects of carcass merit. Orthogonal
paired. Each pair of lambs was placed in a 1.2 contrasts were applied when treatment effects
x 1.2 m pen in an experimental chamber were significant. The interaction of photoperiod
maintained at ambient temperature (18 C) and effects with linear and quadratic temperature
photoperiod (12L:12D) for a 2-wk adaptation effects were tested. A split-plot analysis of
period. The environmental conditions were variance (Steel and Torrie, 1960) was used to
then changed for each treatment group and the evaluate statistical differences in growth rates
study began. The following conditions were and serum prolactin concentrations because
imposed for a 14-wk treatment period: group I, these characteristics constituted repeated ob-
16L:8D, 5 C; group II, 8L:16D, 5C; group III, servations on each animal.
16L:8D, 18 C; group IV, 8L:16D, 18C; group
V, 16L:8D, 31 C; group VI, 8L:16D, 31 C. R esu Its
Artificial lighting was provided daily between Shown in table 1 is the summary of analyses
0700 and 2300 h (16L.'8D) or 0700 and 1500 of covariance for performance and carcass traits
h (SL:16D). Actual ambient temperatures of confinement-reared ewe lambs exposed
achieved in the respective treatments were 7.8, to contrasting environments. Photoperiod and
18.6 and 32.6 C. (or) temperature affected all characteristics
Initial body weights were recorded and the studied except for the carcass attributes of per-
fleece removed from an area over the left rib centage kidney-pelvic fat, backfat thickness and
cage when the study began. A pelleted diet con- USDA quality and yield grade. Photoperiod
sisting of 60% ground shelled corn (IFN 4-02- effects were limited to comparisons between
931), 20% alfalfa hay (IFN 1-00-063) and 15% long (16L:8D) and short (8L:16D) daylengths,
soybean meal (IFN 5-04-604) and analyzed to whereas temperature effects were evaluated at
contain 89.7% dry matter, 17.1% crude protein 5, 18 and 31 C. Temperature effects were par-
and 78.6% total digestible nutrients was fed ad titioned into both linear (T 1) and quadratic
libitum. Feeders were filled daily between (Tq) components. Quadratic temperature effects
0800 and 0900 h. Feed consumption was were observed for most aspects of performance
tabulated for each pen, body weights were over the 26 C range studied. Interactions
recorded and blood samples were collected by between photoperi0d and the linear effects of
jugular venipuncture at weekly intervals for the temperature (P • TI) were observed for feed
next 14 wk. intake and serum prolactin. Significant interac-
At the end of the experiment, each lamb was tions of photoperiod with the quadratic effects
weighed (average slaughter weight, 46 kg) and a of temperature (P • Tq) were not observed for
100 cm 2 patch of wool was removed from any characteristic measured.
the previously clipped area, washed, dried and Least-squares means for performance traits of
then weighed. Carcass weights and other carcass ewe lambs exposed to contrasting photoperiod-
data were recorded at a commercial slaughter temperature environments are presented in
facility and USDA quality and yield grades table 2. Initial weight averaged 21.2 kg for the
were calculated. lambs in this study. An average daily gain of
Serum prolactin concentrations were deter- 251 g/d resulted in a mean slaughter weight of
mined for all samples by a double antibody 45.7 kg. Treatment means for average daily
radioimmunoassay (Schanbacher and Ford, gain, instead of periodic gains, are presented
1979; Schanbacher, 1980). Assay sensitivity (table 2) because growth rates did not differ
was 1 ng NIH-P-S8/ml. The intraassay coeffic- across time within treatment group. The most
ient of variation among duplicates was <12%. rapid gains were observed for lambs exposed to
Statistical Analyses. Performance and carcass the 16L:SD photoperiod and 5 C temperature

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Dependent variable P T1 Tq P X Ti P X Tq

Avg daily gain , ** ** * NS NS

Feed intake ** ** NS * NS
Feed efficiency NS c * * NS NS
Final weight ** ** * NS NS
Carcass weight ** ** ** NS NS
Carcass attributesb NS NS NS NS NS
Serum prolactin ** ** * ** NS
Wool Growth NS * NS NS NS

ap = test for photoperiod effects; T 1 = test for linear effects of temperature; Tq = test for quadratic effects of
temperature; P • T 1 and P • Tq = test for interactions.
bcarcass attributes include percentage kidney-pelvic fat, backfat thickness, quality grade and yield grade.
cNS = nonsignificant.
* *P<.Ol.

e n v i r o n m e n t . Averaged across t e m p e r a t u r e s , t h e differential in g r o w t h rate o f l a m b s e x p o s e d t o

g r o w t h rate f o r lambs e x p o s e d t o t h e 16-h t h e e x t r e m e e n v i r o n m e n t s , i.e., g r o u p I a n d
p h o t o p e r i o d (269 g/d) was a b o u t 15% g r e a t e r g r o u p V I lambs.
than for lambs exposed to only 8 h of light/d G r o w t h rates w e r e closely paralleled b y
(228 g/d). A m b i e n t t e m p e r a t u r e was also f o u n d d i f f e r e n c e s in f e e d intake (table 2). A l t h o u g h
t o be an i m p o r t a n t d e t e r m i n a n t o f g r o w t h rate f e e d i n t a k e was similar for l a m b s e x p o s e d t o
in lambs. A n inverse relationship b e t w e e n long and s h o r t p h o t o p e r i o d s at 5 C, t h e differ-
e n v i r o n m e n t a l t e m p e r a t u r e a n d average daily ential e f f e c t s o f p h o t o p e r i o d w e r e m o r e n o t i c e -
gain ( A D G ) is illustrated in t h e regression able at t h e t w o higher t e m p e r a t u r e s . T h e
e q u a t i o n d e t e r m i n e d for t h e Iambs in this s t u d y regression e q u a t i o n s for t e m p e r a t u r e e f f e c t s o n
[ADG = 327.3 -- 4.46 ( C ) ] . This relationship is daily f e e d intake (FI) w e r e FI = 1.77 + .010 (C)
also a p p a r e n t following i n s p e c t i o n o f t h e - .0009 (C 2) f o r l a m b s e x p o s e d t o t h e 1 6 L : 8 D
subclass m e a n s o f table 2. N o t e t h e t w o f o l d p h o t o p e r i o d and FI = 1.88 - - . 0 2 2 (C) --: .0003


Avg daily Total feed Feed efficiency, Final wt,

Treatment b gain, g/d intake, kg/pen c kg feed/kg gain kg

I(16L:8D, 5C) 320-+ 8 327+- 16 5.8-+.5 52.5-+.8

II(8L:16D, 5C) 287-+ 8 321-+ 16 6.1-+.5 49.2-+.8
III(16L:8D, 18C) 275 +- 9 304-+ 16 5.7-+.5 48.1•
IV (8L:16D, 18 C) 245 +- 9 249 -+ 16 5.4 + .5 45.2 -+ .9
V(16L:8D, 31C) 2 1 3 -+ 9 228-+16 6.2+-.5 42.0-+.9
VI (8L:16D, 31 C) 152 -+ 10 156 +- 16 7.7 +- .5 36.0 • .9
a 9 . 9 9

Means adjusted for initial weight by analysis of covariance.

b16L:8D refers to exposure to long days (16 h light/24 h).
8L:16D refers to exposure to short days (8 h light/24 h).
CFeed intake for paired lambs over the 14-wk treatment period.

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Carcass wt, Kidney-pelvic Backfat thickness,

Treatment b kg fat, % mm Quality grade c Yield grade d

1 (16L:8D, 5 C) 27.67 • .49 5.10 -+ .71 9.60 + 1.30 11.35 • .44 4.85 • .44
II (8L:16D, 5 C) 25.79 -+ .49 6.30-+ .55 9.06 • 1.01 10.91 • .34 5.02 • .34
111 (16L:8D, 18 C) 25.31 + .52 5.25 • .56 ., 9.04 • 1.04 10.74 • .35 4.75 • .35
IV (8L:16D, 18 C) 23.51-+.52 6.10• 10.35• .92 11.70+.31 5.30•
V (16L:8D, 31 C) 21.05 • .56 5.73 • .54~ 9.72-+ .99 11.33 • .34 5.06 + .33
VI (8L:16D, 31 C) 1 7 . 3 7 • .56 6.26 • .99 11.33 + 1.83 12.26 • .62 5.63 • .61

aCarcass weight means adjusted for initial weight by analysis of covariance; means for carcass traits adjusted
for carcass weight differences by analyses of covariance.
b16L:8D refers to exposure to long days (16 h light/24 h).
8L: 16D refers to exposure to short days (8 h light/24 h).
CQuality grade: 10 = low Choice, 11 = average Choice, 12 = high Choice.
dyield grade: 1 = high cutability; 5 = low cutability.

(C 2) f o r l a m b s e x p o s e d t o t h e 8 L : 1 6 D p h o t o - fects were highly significant a n d n o i n t e r a c t i o n s

period, respectively. were d e t e c t e d . Final weights d e c r e a s e d w i t h
T h e effects o f p h o t o p e r i o d o n c o n v e r s i o n o f increasing t e m p e r a t u r e a n d w i t h t h e 8 L : 1 6 D
feed to live w e i g h t gain a p p r o a c h e d significance p h o t o p e r i o d . T r e a t m e n t d i f f e r e n c e s in final
w i t h l a m b s e x p o s e d t o t h e 16-h p h o t o p e r i o d w e i g h t ( t a b l e 2) were closely paralleled b y
s h o w i n g t h e b e s t efficiency. T e m p e r a t u r e d i f f e r e n c e s in h o t carcass w e i g h t (table 3).
effects o n f e e d e f f i c i e n c y s h o w e d b o t h a l i n e a r Whereas dressing p e r c e n t a g e (carcass w e i g h t /
a n d a q u a d r a t i c c o m p o n e n t ( t a b l e 1). Interest- final w e i g h t x 1 0 0 ) was similar across p h o t o -
ingly, l a m b s c o n v e r t e d feed t o live w e i g h t gain periods, dressing p e r c e n t a g e t e n d e d t o b e l o w e r
m o s t e f f i c i e n t l y at b o t h p h o t o p e r i o d s w h e n f o r l a m b s e x p o s e d t o t h e 31 C e n v i r o n m e n t
e x p o s e d t o t h e 18 C e n v i r o n m e n t . I n t e r a c t i o n ( ~ 4 9 . 1 % ) as c o m p a r e d t o l a m b s e x p o s e d t o t h e
effects o f p h o t o p e r i o d a n d t e m p e r a t u r e (P x Ti 18 C ( ~ 5 2 . 3 % ) a n d 5 C (-,-52.5%) e n v i r o n m e n t s .
a n d P x T q ) f o r feed e f f i c i e n c y were n o n s i g n i f - In spite o f significant t r e a t m e n t effects o n
icant. carcass weight, t h e c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s o f carcass
In this s t u d y , d i f f e r e n c e s in final ( s l a u g h t e r ) m e r i t , w h e n a d j u s t e d f o r d i f f e r e n c e s in carcass
w e i g h t were r e f l e c t e d b y d i f f e r e n c e s in average weight, were n o t significantly affected. Treat-
daily gain. P h o t o p e r i o d a n d t e m p e r a t u r e ef- m e n t m e a n s for p e r c e n t a g e kidney-pelvic fat,


Serum prolactin, Wool growth,

Treatment a ng/ml mg/cm:

1 (16L:8D, 5 C) 6 7 1 +- 61 107 +7
II (8L:16D, 5 C) 316 -+ 61 115 -+ 6
Ili (16L:8D, 18 C) 1,077 -+61 94 -+ 6
IV (8L:16D, 18 C) 387 -+ 62 111 • 6
V (16L:8D, 31 C) 1,236 -+ 62 86 -+ 5
VI (8L:16D, 31 C) 241 -+ 63 86 +9

a16L:8D refers to exposure to long days (16 h light/24 h).

8L: 16D refers to exposure to short days (8 h light/24 h).

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backfat thickness and USDA quality and yield Several, if not most, biological functions of
grade are presented in table 3. animals are temporally coupled with the rhyth-
Serum prolactin concentrations were signifi- micity of photoperiod (Cloudsley-Thompson,
cantly affected by the contrasting photoperiod 1976). Photoperiodicity entrains those physi-
temperature environments. Because prolactin ological processes (e.g., endocrine function and
concentrations did not differ across time within basal metabolism) that determine growth rate.
treatment group (P>.05), only overall mean Experimental evidence from this (Schanbacher
concentrations are presented (table 4). Prolactin and Crouse, 1980) and other laboratories
concentrations were elevated by exposure to (Forbes et al., 1979) has clearly demonstrated a
the 16-h photoperiod regardless of temperature. differential growth response of lambs exposed
The significant interaction (P x TI) resulted to long vs short photoperiods. More recent
from increased prolactin concentrations with studies from this laboratory (Schanbacher and
increasing temperatures being observed under Crouse, 1981 ; Schanbacher, 1982) have demon-
long days (16L:8D), but not under short strated that the incidence (time) of light
days (8L: 16D). exposure is as important as the duration of the
Wool growth, as represented by the weight photoperiod in determining growth rates in
change per unit area (mg/cm 2), was not signifi- Iambs. In these studies, male lambs grew as
cantly affected by differences in daylength, but though they were exposed to stimulatory long
was reduced (P<.05) by increases in ambient photoperiods (16L:8D) and not to nonstimula-
temperature. Wool growth during the 14-wk tory short photoperiods (8L:16D) when ex-
study is presented in table 4 for each of the six posed to an 8-h split photoperiod (7L:9D:IL:
experimental groups. 7D). Interestingly, serum prolactin concentra-
tions were elevated in both long and split
photoperiods when compared with the short
Discussion photoperiod.
The data presented herein clearly show an Results of the present study confirm that
effect of photoperiod and temperature on ewe lambs also respond to long photoperiods
growth and performance traits of ewe lambs. As with an enhanced growth rate and increased
producers consider alternative housing for serum prolactin concentrations. Equally im-
finishing market lambs, the need to identify portant, however, is the finding that the in-
improved technology and decision-making tools creased growth rate of male and female lambs is
for increased production efficiency becomes reflected in carcass weight, with no apparent
apparent. The beneficial effects observed for adverse effects on carcass attributes. Although
16-h photoperiods and 5 to 18 C environmental the increase in weight gain without a significant
temperatures in this study provide important change in carcass composition of ewe lambs
information to managerial personnel within the exposed to a 16L:8D photoperiod is in agree-
sheep industry. ment with the results of a similar study by
The detrimental effects of elevated environ- Forbes et al. (1981), the significant increase in
mental temperatures (Shehon, 1964; Soderquist carcass weights of the lambs in the present
and Knox, 1967; Hofmeyr et al., 1969) and study was not observed in the study by Forbes
short daylengths (Forbes et al., 1979; Schan- et al. (1981). Lack of significance may have
bacher and Crouse, 1980, 1981) have been resulted from the use of older lambs that were
previously reported. Although photoperiod as used in some of their experiments or unidenti-
an environmental variable in lamb performance fied interactions with other managerial or
has received most of the recent attention, no environmental conditions (e.g., variable temper-
reports are available to define the relationship ature).
between photoperiod and temperature effects Body weight gain and feed intake of lambs
on growth, i.e., whether these factors affect are depressed by increased temperatures (Kotb
lamb performance independently of one and Pfander, 1964). A subsequent report
another. The present data fail to show important (Knox and Soderquist, 1969) and the present
interactions between these two variables on study confirm the detrimental effects of heat
performance characteristics in ewe lambs. exposure on lamb growth and performance.
Therefore, the remaining discussion presents Bhattacharya and Hussain (1974) have de-
the influence of these two environmental scribed some of the metabolic adjustments
components separately. made by wether lambs when exposed to elevated

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