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Advances in Life Sciences 5(12), Print : ISSN 2278-3849, 4805-4808, 2016

Study on Effect of Environmental Influences on Pre-Weaning Growth Traits

in Mecheri Sheep

Department of Animal Husbandry Statistics and Computer Applications,

Department of Animal Genetics and Breeding,
Madras Veterinary College, Chennai 600 007.

Analysis of pre-weaning growth rate performance in
Mecheri sheep was carried out using age-wise body weight
data of Mecheri lambs maintained at Mecheri Sheep
Research Station, Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal
Sciences University, Pottaneri. The age-wise data for the
period of twenty four years from 1991 to 2014 were
considered for this study. Besides analysing the effects of
environmental influences, viz., period of lambing, season
of lambing and sex of lamb born on pre-weaning growth
traits were also analysed. In addition, the overall leastsquares means of pre- weaning AGR (g/day) measures
was 79.97 0.56. Period of birth, season of lambing and
sex of lamb born were a highly significant (P < 0.01) source
of variation in influencing the measures of pre-weaning
AGR (g/day) was estimated. Among the least-squares
means obtained for pre- weaning AGR (g/day) measured at
different period of lambing, the maximum value (99.37
1.04) was found in period 6 (2011 - 2014) and minimum
(60.61 1.53) in period 1 (1991 - 1994) lambing. Besides,
season 2 (July- September) lambing was found highest
(93.90 0.78) pre-weaning AGR (g/day) and lowest (61.84
0.81) in season 1(January-March) lambing. Similarly,
male lamb had maximum (84.840.85) pre-weaning AGR
(g/day) than female lamb (74.79 0.71) also estimated.
Key words

Mecheri sheep, pre-weaning growth rate,

environmental effect, AGR.

Among the livestock, the sheep is an economically

important species contributing greatly to the Indian
agrarian economy, playing a vital role in the livelihood
of a large number of small and marginal farmers and
landless labourers. Manure from sheep is an important
source of organic fertilizer, especially in southern states
where they are penned on fallow lands for increasing
soil fertility. A major portion of income in sheep
husbandry is through the sale of males at the market
age. Therefore, faster growth rate and early maturity
are important components of profitable sheep
production. Understanding of the economic importance
of various traits such as birth weight, weight gain, rate
of maturity, age and live weight at which maximal
growth phase has led researchers to carry out detailed
studies targeting weight-age relation (Ersoy et al.,
2006). Increased economic returns from sheep
production require improvements in the weight of lambs

at market age. Mecheri sheep are one of the recognized

breeds of sheep in Tamil Nadu and reared mainly for
meat with the primary by-product as skin. Mecheri
sheep is a meat type breed, native of hot and dry part of
western Tamil Nadu and was distributed across Salem,
Dharmapuri and Coimbatore districts. They
constitute 24.28 per cent of total sheep population of
Tamil Nadu. They are medium sized animals with
compact body, covered with short hairs, which are not
Pre-weaning growth traits such as birth weight
and growth rate have important implications on flock
productivity, management systems and breeding policies
to be followed. Analysis of the sheep growth
performance through their life span is helpful to establish
proper feeding strategies and to know the best slaughter
age (Arrebola et al., 2009). Hence this study was
undertaken to study the pre-weaning growth
performance and effect of environmental influences on
pre-weaning growth rate in Mecheri sheep under farm
bred condition.


Data on growth traits of Mecheri lambs born
between the years 1991 and 2014 of Mecheri Sheep
Research Station, Pottaneri were utilized for this study.
Body weights measured in kilograms at birth and 3
months (weaning) weight of both males and females
were recorded. The total duration of 24 years (1991 to
2014) was grouped into six equal periods (period 1:
1991 to 1994; period 2: 1995 to 1998; period 3: 1999 to
2002; period 4: 2003 to 2006; period 5: 2007 to 2010
and period 6: 2011 to 2014), assuming that environmental
deviations and husbandry practices would not have
differed much within a period. Moreover, the generation
interval of sheep was considered as four years (Lush,
1945). Based on the lambing frequency during
consecutive months, three lambing clusters were
identified as lambing seasons, viz., season-1 (January
to March), season-2 (July to September) and season-3
(October to December) which approximately
corresponded to cold, South-West monsoon and NorthEast monsoon seasons based on climatic factors. The
summer season (April to June) had only few lambings
and hence was not included in the analyses.


Advances in Life Sciences 5(12), 2016

Table 1. Least squares means ( S.E.) of pre-weaning absolute growth rate (gram/day) in Mecheri
Period of lambing
P 1 (1991-94)


P 2 (1995-98)


P 3 (1999-02)


P 4 (2003-06)


P 5 (2007-10)


P 6 (2011-14)


Season of lambing
S1 (Jan.- Mar.)


S2 (Jul.-Sep.)


S3 (Oct.- Dec.)


Sex of lamb






Means bearing same superscript within column do not differ significantly in each subclass .
** Significant (P < 0.01); Figures in parentheses are the total number of sheep.

Absolute Growth Rate (AGR) is the change in size

over time and calculated as

, where y refers

to the body weight and t1 and t2 refer to age in days

(Fitzhugh and Taylor, 1971). AGR is often called as
average daily gain which is expressed in grams per day.
In this study, pre-weaning AGR was evaluated by birth
to 3 months age interval. The growth period of birth to
3 months was considered as pre-weaning growth period.


Least squares means ( S.E.) of pre-weaning
absolute growth rate (gram/day) and their effect of
environmental influences on pre-weaning AGR in
Mecheri sheep were presented in Table 1.The overall
least-squares mean for pre-weaning (birth to 3 months)
AGR (g/day) was 79.97 0.56 g/day. The mean preweaning AGR (g/day) was highest (99.33 1.04) in
period-6 (2011-14), followed by periods-5 (96.93
1.12), 4 (64.82 1.14), 3 (60.79 0.92), 2 (60.79

0.92) and 1 (60.61 1.53).

Period of lambing was found to have highly
significant (P<0.01) effect on pre-weaning AGR (g/
day). The overall mean pre-weaning AGR obtained in
this study was slightly lower than that of earlier report
in the same breed, studied in its habitat (Jagatheesan et
al., 2003), which might be due variations in the selection
and breeding strategies followed, besides managemental
Lambs born during season-2 (July-September) and
season-1 (January-March) had the highest (93.90
0.78) and the lowest (61.84 0.81) pre-weaning AGR
(g/day), respectively. Analysis of variance indicated that
season of birth also had a highly significant (Pd+0.01)
effect on pre-weaning AGR (g/day). Similar results were
observed in Muzaffarnagri (Kaila et al., 1989), Marwari
(Nehra and Singh, 2006) and Mecheri sheep
(Thiruvenkadan et al., 2008 and Jeichitra, 2009). In
general, season-2 born (July-September) lambs were
heavier pre- weaning AGR than those born in other

BALAN et al., Study on Effect of Environmental Influences on Pre-Weaning Growth Traits in Mecheri Sheep


Table 2. Least squares means ( S.E.) of pre-weaning growth rate (g/day) in Mecheri sheep



(Jan.- Mar.)


(Oct.- Dec.)



P1 (1991-94)






P2 (1995-98)






P3 (1999-02)





P4 (2003-06)






P5 (2007-10)






P6 (2011-14)










Means bearing same superscript do not differ significantly in each subclasses within periods
* Significant (P < 0.05); ** Significant (P < 0.01).

seasons indicating that better nourishment and

comfortable weather conditions to the dams lambing
during season-2. However, the lowest pre- weaning AGR
recorded in the lambs born during season-1 (JanuaryMarch) might be due to unfavourable climatic conditions
and scarcity of grazing resources for the dams.
Influences of period of lambing, season of lambing
and sex of lamb born on pre-weaning AGR (g/day) in
Mecheri sheep were ascertained and the results are
presented in Table 2. The results revealed that the season
of birth had a highly significant (P<0.01) effect on preweaning AGR (g/day), in all the periods. Among the
periods, peak AGR (g/day) (106.68 1.34) was found
during the season-2 of period-5 and low (46.24 1.63)
AGR (g/day) in season-1 of period-4. The overall mean
values of pre-weaning AGR (g/day) for male and female
lambs were 84.84 0.85 and 74.79 0.71, respectively
(Table 1). The variations in pre-weaning AGR (g/day)
could be attributed to the managemental differences and
environmental variations. The significant (P<0.01) effect
of periods on pre-weaning AGR (g/day) could be due
to varied environmental conditions, and nutritional and
other management practices adopted for the dam during
pregnancy. The variation in the availability of pasture
prior to lambing seasons might have played a major
role in the period to period variation in pre-weaning AGR
(g/day), apart from other managemental changes. Sex
of the lamb born had a highly significant (P<0.01)
source of variation observed in all the periods (Table
2). Among all periods, period-6 showed a higher preweaning AGR (g/day) for both male and female lambs
with the values of 105.26 1.55 and 92.34 1.23,
Similar differences in AGR (g/day) between males
and females in the pre-weaning age were reported by
Pannerselvam (1993), Kaila et al. (1989), Mehta et al.
(2003), Nehra and Singh (2006), Waghmode et al.
(2008), Jeichitra (2009), Thiruvenkadan et al. (2011)
and Jeichitra and Rajendran (2013) in different

indigenous breeds of sheep. The significantly heavier

pre-weaning AGR (g/day) of males might be due to
differences in endocrinal system. The estrogen hormone
has a limited effect on the growth of long bones in
females, which could be one of the reason in which
females have smaller body and lighter weight against
males (Shahroudi et al., 2002, 2003 and Rashidi et al.,
Measures of pre- weaning absolute growth rates
(AGR) was significantly influenced by the environmental
factors, viz., period and season of lambing, and sex of
lamb born. The maximum growth performance was
observed among the lambs born during the period-6
(2011-14) at Mecheri Sheep Research Station, Pottaneri.
In addition, average daily gain in pre-weaning AGR
(gram /day) in Lambs born during season-2 (JulySeptember) and 3 (October-December) exhibited a better
growth performance than born during season-1
(January-March) lambing.

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Received on 06-06-2016

Accepted on 11-06-2016