Effects of feeding ground redberry juniper (Juniperus pinchotii) to gestating ewes on pre- and postpartum performance, serum metabolites and hormones, milk fatty acid composition, and progeny preweaning performance.
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The objective of this research was to evaluate effects of replacing sorghum Sudangrass hay with ground juniper in gestating ewe supplements on pre- and postpartum growth performance, serum metabolites and hormonal concentrations, milk fatty acid composition, and progeny preweaning performance. In a completely randomized design, commercial Rambouillet ewes (age = 3 to 5 yr; initial BW = 65.2 1.6 kg) on a base diet of long-stem sorghum Sudangrass hay were assigned to 1 of 4 dietary supplements in which ground juniper replaced 0% (CNTL), 33% (18JUN), 66% (36JUN), or 100% (54JUN) of the ground sorghum Sudangrass hay in a pelleted supplement with ground juniper from d 38 4 of gestation to 2 d postpartum. Treatment DM diet intake overall (g/kg BW) in ewes receiving no juniper was similar ( 0.38) to that of those receiving increasing concentrations of juniper. Changes in ewe BW and BCS were similar ( 0.24) in ewes throughout gestation. All serum metabolites and hormones were within normal clinical ranges; however, serum IGF-1 decreased linearly ( = 0.003), alanine increased (linear; = 0.003), and serum Na decreased (linear; = 0.049) as the percentage of juniper increased in the diet. Ewe milk fatty acid composition was similar ( > 0.05) for the majority of fatty acids across treatment groups, with the exception of arachidonic acid (C20:4n6) being greater ( < 0.02) in 54JUN vs. CNTL ewe milk. Lamb birth weights were similar ( = 0.13), whereas lamb ADG tended to differ (quadratic; = 0.06) from d 0 to 14, with 18JUN being the least. At weaning, BW tended ( = 0.09) to linearly decrease in lambs born to ewes consuming greater concentrations of juniper but were not different ( = 0.26) between CNTL and 18JUN, 36JUN, and 54JUN. Results indicated that feeding increasing levels of ground juniper in supplements did not negatively alter ewe performance or serum metabolites and hormones measured pre- and postpartum. Lamb birth weight and preweaning performance appeared unaffected by maternal consumption of ground juniper containing supplements. Results also provide novel information regarding the effects of plant secondary compound consumption throughout pregnancy on ewe and progeny performance and health.