Patterns of maternal behaviour of ewes and sucking behaviour of lambs

Published: Nov 24, 2017
Sheep behavior port-partum period sucking

In the present article the literature of maternal and sucking behaviour of sheep is reviewed. The article is divided into five sections: (i) Preparation of the ewe - lambing, (ii) Initiation of maternal behaviour - recognition of newborn lambs, (iii) Recognition between ewe and newborn lambs (auditory stimuli and ewe-lamb recognition, visual ewe-lamb recognition, olfactory cues for maternal behaviour, haptic cues in teat seeking by newborn lambs), (iv) Other patterns of ewe - lamb behaviour (other behavioural patterns immediately post-partum, behavioural patterns during lactation) and (v) Neuro-hormonal control of maternal behaviour. In general, studies of maternal and neonatal behavior of sheep contribute to development of management practices, resulting to decreased neonatal mortality, increase of meat production and improvement of animal health and welfare. They also confirm the importance of animal ethology as a veterinary speciality.

Article Details
  • Section
  • Review Articles
Download data is not yet available.
Τσακάλωφ Π (1998) Μαιευτική των Κατοικίδιων Θηλαστικών, 2η εκδ. Υπηρεσία Δημοσιευμάτων ΑΠΘ, Θεσσαλονίκη
Alexander G, Shillito ΕΕ (1977) The importance of odour, appearance and voice in maternal recognition of the young in Merino sheep (Ovis aries). Appi Anim Ethol, 3:127-135
Alexander G, Shillito EE (1978) Maternal responses in Merino ewes to artificially coloured lambs. Appi Anim Behav Sci, 4:141-152
Alexander G, Stevens D (1981) Recognition of washed lambs by Merinos ewes. Appi Anim Ethol, 7:77-86
Alexander G, Stevens D, Kilgour R, de Langen H, Motterhead BE, Lynch JJ, (1983) Separation of ewes from twin lambs: incidence in several sheep breeds. Appi Anim Ethol, 10:301-317
Alexander G, Williams D (1966) Teat-seeking activity in lambs during the first hours of life. Anim Behav, 14:166-176
Arnold G W, Morgan PD (1975) Behaviour of the ewe and lamb at lambing and its relationship to lamb mortality. Appi Anim Ethol, 2:25-46
Atroshi F, Osterberg S (1979) The behaviour of Finnsheep during and shortly after lambing. Acta Agric Scand, 29:258-162
Bareham JR (1975) The effect of lack of vision on suckling behavior of lambs. Appi Anim Ethol, 1:245-250
Bareham JR (1976) The behaviour of lambs on the first day after birth. Br Vet J, 132:152-162
Billing AE, Vince Μ (1987α) Teat-seeking behaviour in newborn lambs. I. Evidence for the influence of maternal skin temperature. Appi Anim Behav Sci, 18:310-313
Billing AE, Vince Μ (1987β) Teat-seeking behaviour in newborn lambs. II. Evidence for the influence of the dam's surface texture and degree of surface yield. Appi Anim Behav Sci, 18:315-325
Booth KK (2006) The significance of the vomeronasal organ for offspring recognition in sheep. Small Rumin Res, 62:39-41
Booth KK, Katz LS (2000) Role of the vomeronasal organ in neonatal offspring recognition in sheep. Biol Reprod, 63:953-958
Boyazoglu J, Morand-Fehr Ρ (2001) Mediterranean dairy sheep and goat products and their quality. A critical review. Small Rumin Res, 40:1-11
Broad KD, Levy F, Evans G, Kimura T, Keverne EB, Kendrick KM (1999) Previous maternal experience potentiates the effect of parturition on oxytocin receptor mRNA expression in the
paraventricular nucleus. Eur J Neurosci, 11:3725-3737
Caba M, Poindron P, Krehbiel D, Levy F, Romeyer A, Venier G (1995) Naltrexone delays the onset of maternal behavior in primiparous parturient ewes. Pharmacol Biochem Behav, 52:743-
Cloete SWP, Olivier JJ, Schlotz AJ, ten Hoope JM, Lombard PJA, Franken MC (1998) Ease of birth in relation to pelvic dimensions, litter weight and conformation in sheep. Small Rumin Res, 31:51-60
Cloete SWP, Scholtz AJ, Gilmour AR, Olivier JJ (2002) Genetic and environmental effects on lambing neonatal behaviour of Dormer and SA Mutton Merino lambs. Liv Prod Sci, 78:183-193
Dwyer CM (2003) Behavioural development in the neonatal lamb: effect of maternal birth-related factors. Theriogenology, 59:1027-1050
Dwyer CM, Calvert SK, Farish M, Donbav J, Pickup HE (2005) Breed, litter and parity effects on placental weight placentome number and consequences for the neonatal behaviour of thelamb. Theriogenology, 63:1092-1110
Dwyer CM, Dingwall WS, Lawrence AB (1999) Physiological correlates of maternal-offspring behaviour in sheep: a factor analysis. Physiol Behav, 67:443-454.
Dwyer CM, Lawrence AB (1998) Variability in the expression of maternal behaviour in primiparous sheep: effects of genotype and litter size. Appi Anim Behav Sci, 58:311-330
Dwyer CM, Lawrence AB (1999) Does the behaviour of the neonate influence the expression of maternal behaviour in sheep? Behaviour, 136:367-389
Dwyer CM, Lawrence AB (2000) Maternal behaviour in domestic sheep (Ovis Aries): constancy and change with maternal experience. Behaviour, 137:1391-1413
Dwyer CM, Lawrence AB, Bishop SC (2001) The effects of selection for lean tissue content on maternal and neonatal lamb behaviours in Scottish Blackface sheep. Anim Sci, 72:555-571
Dwyer CM, Lawrence AB, Bishop SC, Lewis M (2003) Ewe-lamb bonding behaviours at birth are affected by maternal undernutrition in pregnancy. Br J Nutr, 89:123-136
Dwyer CM, Lawrence AB, Brown HE, Simm G (1996) Effect of ewe and lamb genotype on gestation length, lambing ease and neonatal behaviour of lambs. Reprod Fertil Dev, 8:1123-1129
Dwyer CM, McLean KA, Dean LA, Chirnside J, Calvert SK Lawrence AB (1998) Vocalisations between mother and young in sheep: effects of breed and maternal experience. Appi Anim Behav Sci, 58:105-119
Ewbank R (1964) Observation on the suckling habits of twin lambs. Anim Behav, 12:34-37
Ewbank R (1967) Nursing and suckling behaviour amongst Clun Forest ewe-lambs. Anim Behav, 15:251-258
Ewbank R, Mason AC (1967) A note on the sucking behaviour of the twin lambs reared as single. Anim Prod, 9:417-420
Fahmy MH, Roberts S, Castonguay F (1997) Ewe lamb behaviour at parturition in prolific and non-prolific sheep. Can J Anim Sci, 77:9-15
Ferreira G, Gervais R, Durkin TP, Levy F (1999) Postacquisition scopolamine treatments reveal the time course for the formation of lamb odor recognition memory in parturient ewes. Behav
Neurosci, 113:136-142
Ferreira G, Terrazas A, Poindron P, Nowak R, Orgeur P, Levy F (2000) Learning of olfactory cues is not necessary for early lamb recognition by the mother. Physiol Behav, 69:405-412
Fitzpatrick J, Scott M, Nolan A (2006) Assessment of pain and welfare in sheep. Small Rumin Res, 62:55-61
Fthenakis GC, Jones JET (1990) The effect of experimentally induced sublinical mastitis on milk yield of ewes and on the growth of lambs. Br Vet J, 146:43-49
George JM (1969) Variation in the time of parturition of Merino and Dorset Horn ewes. J Agric Sci (Camb), 73:295-299.
Gonyou HW, Stookey JM (1983) Use of lambing cubicles and the behaviour of ewes at parturition. J Anim Sci, 56:787-791
Gonyou HW, Stookey JM (1987) Maternal and neonatal behaviour. Vet Clin NA - Food Anim Pract, 3:231-249
Gonzalez SG, Goddard PJ (1998) The provision of supplementary colostrum to newborn lambs: effects on post natal lamb and ewe behaviour. Appi Anim Behav Sci, 61:41-50
Gordon K, Siegmann M (1991) Suckling behavior of ewes in earlylactation. Physiol Behav, 50:1079-1081
Goursaud AP, Nowak R (1999) Colostrum mediates thedevelopment of mother preference by newborn lambs. PhysiolBehav, 67:49-56
Haughey KG (1991) Perinatal lamb mortality-its investigation, causesand control. J S Afr Vet Assoc, 62:78-91
Haenlein GFW (2001) Past, present, and future perspectives of small ruminant dairy research. J Dairy Sci, 84:2097-2115
Haenlein GFW, Abdellatif MA (2004) Trends in small ruminant husbandry and nutrition and specific reference to Egypt. Small Rumin Res, 51:185-200
Henderson DC (2000) Neonatal conditions. In: Diseases of Sheep, 3rd edn. Blackwell, Oxford, 58-65
Hernez H, Serafin N, Terrazas AM, Marnet PG, Kann G, Delgadillo JA, Poindron Ρ (2002) Maternal olfaction differentially modulates oxytocin and prolactin release during suckling in
goats. Horm Behav, 42:232-244
Hess CE, Graves HB, Wilson LL (1974) Individual preweaning suckling behavior of single, twin and triplet lambs. J Anim Sci, 38:1313-1318
Hinch GN (1989) The sucking behaviour of triplet, twin and single lambs at pasture. Appi Anim Behav Sci, 22:39-48
Holmes RJ (1976) Relationship of parturient behaviour to reproductive efficiency of Finn Sheep. Proc NZ Soc Anim Prod, 36:253-257
Jones JET, Watkins GH (2000) Mastitis and contagious agalactia. In: Diseases of Sheep, 3rd edn. Blackwell, Oxford, 75-80
Kaasschieter GA, Dejong R, Schiere JB, Zwart D (1992) Towards a sustainable livestock production in developing countries and the importance of animal health strategy therein. Vet Q, 14:66-75
Keisler DH, Andrews ML, Moffatt RJ (1992) Subclinical mastitis and its effect on lamb performance. J Anim Sci, 70:1677-1681
Keller M, Meurisse M, Poindron P, Nowak R, Ferreira G, Shayit M, Levy F (2003) Maternal experience influences the establishment of visual/auditory, but not olfactory recognition of the newborn lamb by ewes at parturition. Dev Psychobiol, 43:167-176
Kendrick KM (2000) Oxytocin, motherhood and bonding. Exp Physiol, 85:111-124
Kendrick KM, Da Costa APC, Broad KD, Ohkura S, Guevara R, Levy F, Keverne EB (1997) Neural control of maternal behavior and olfactory recognition of offspring. Brain Res Bull, 44:383-395
Kendrick KM, Keverne EB (1991) Importance of progesterone and estrogen priming for the induction of maternal behavior by vaginocervical stimulation in sheep: effects of maternal experience. Physiol Behav, 49:745-750
Kendrick KM, Keverne EB, Hinton MR, Goode JA (1991α) Cerebrospinal fluid and plasma concentrations of oxytocin and vasopressin during parturition and vaginocervical stimulation in
the sheep. Brain Res Bull, 26:803-807.
Kendrick KM, Levy F, Keverne EB (1991β) Importance of vaginocervical stimulation for the formation of maternal bonding in primiparus and multiparoys parturient ewes. Physiol Behav
Keverne EB (1999) The vomeronasal organ. Science, 286:716-720
Keverne EB, Kendrick KM (1991) Morphine and corticotrophinreleasing factor potentiate maternal acceptance in multiparous
ewes after vaginocervical stimulation. Brain Res, 540:55-62
Keverne EB, Kendrick KM (1994). Maternal behaviour in sheep and its neuroendocrine regulation. Acta Paediat 397 Suppl:47-56
Kirk JH, Huffman EM, Anderson BC (1980) Mastitis and udder abnormalities as related to neonatal lamb mortality in shedlambed range ewes. J Anim Sci, 50:610-616
Kuchel RC, Lindsay DR (1999) Maternal behaviour and the survival of lambs in superfine wool sheep. Reprod Fertil Dev, 11:391-394
Le Neidre Ρ (1989) Influence of cattle rearing conditions and breed on social relationship of mother and young. Appi Anim Behav Sci, 23:117-127
Levy F, Gervais R, Kindermann U, Litterio M, Poindron P, Porter R (1991) Effects of early post-partum separation on maintenance of maternal responsiveness and selectivity in parurient ewes.
Appi Anim Behav Sci, 31:101-110
Levy F, Guevara-Guzman R, Hinton MR, Kendrick KM, Keverne EB (1993) Effects of parturition and maternal experience on noradrenaline and acetylcholine release in the olfactory bulb of sheep. Behav Neurosci, 107:662-668
Levy F, Keller M, Poindron Ρ (2004) Olfactory regulation of maternal behavior in mammals. Horm Behav, 46:284-302
Levy F, Kendrick KM, Goode JA, Guevara-Guzman R, Keverne EB (1995β) Oxytocin and vasopressin release in the olfactory bulb of parturient ewes: changes with maternal experience and
effects on acetylcholine, gamma-aminobutyric acid, glutamate and noradrenaline release. Brain Res, 669:197-206
Levy F, Kendrick KM, Keverne EB, Piketty V, Poindron Ρ (1992) Intracerebral oxytoxin is important for the onset of maternal behaviour in inexperienced ewes delivered under peridural
anesthesia. Behav Neurosci. 106:427-432
Levy F, Locatelli A, Piketty V, Tillet Y, Poindron Ρ (1995α) Involvement of the main but not the accessory olfactory system in maternal behavior of primiparous and multiparous ewes. Physiol Behav, 57:97-104
Levy F, Poindron Ρ (1987) The importance of amniotic fluids for the establishment of maternal behaviour in experienced andinexperienced ewes. Anim Behav, 35:1188-1192
Levy F, Poindron P, Le Neindre Ρ (1983) Attraction and repulsion by amniotic fluids and their olfactory control in the ewe around parturition. Physiol Behav, 31:687-692
McGlone JJ, Stobart RH (1986) A quantitive ethogram of behavior of yearling ewes during two hours post-parturition. Appi Anim Behav Sci, 16:157-164
Mavrogianni VS, Cripps PJ, Papaioannou N, Taitzoglou I, Fthenakis GC (2006) Teat disorders predispose ewes to clinical mastitis after challenge with Mannheimia haemolytica. Vet Res, 37:89-
Mavrogianni VS, Fthenakis GC, Brooks H, Papaioannou N, Cripps PJ, Taitzoglou I, Brellou G, Saratsis Ρ (2005) The effects of inoculation of Mannheimia haemolytica into the teat of lactating
ewes. Vet Res, 36:13-25
Menzies PI (1997) Reproductive health management programs. In: Current Therapy in Large Animal Theriogenology. Saunders, Philadelphia, 643-649
Meunier-Salaun MC, Gort F, Prunier A, Schouten WPG (1991) Behavioural patterns and progesterone, Cortisol and prolactin levels around parturition in European (Large-White) and
Chinese (Meishan) sows. Appi Anim Behav Sci, 31:43-59
Meurisse M, Gonzaez A, Delsol G, Caba M, Levy F, Poindron Ρ (2005) Estradiol receptor-alpha expression in hypothalamic and limbic regions of ewes is influenced by physiological state and
maternal experience. Horm Behav, 48:34-43
Munro J (1956). Observation on the suckling behaviour of young lambs. Br J Anim Behav, 4:34-36
Napolitano F, Annicchiarico G, Caroprese M, De Rosa G, Taibi L, Sevi A (2003) Lambs prevented from suckling their mothers display behavioural, immune and endocrine disturbances. Physiol Behav, 78:81-89
Noakes DE (2001) Pregnancy and its diagnosis. In: Arthurs'Veterinary Reproduction and Obstetrics, 8th edn. Saunders, Edinburgh, 69-118
Nowak R (1990) Mother and sibling discrimination at a distance by three- to seven-day-old lambs. Dev Psychobiol, 23:285-295
Nowak R (1995) Lambs' attachment to their mother: importance of the first sucking bouts. Appi Anim Behav Sci, 44:257-283
Nowak R (1996) Neonatal survival: contribution from behavioural studies in sheep. Appi Anim Behav Sci, 49:61-72
Nowak R, Breton G, Mellot E (2001) CCK and development of mother preference in sheep: a neonatal time course study. Peptides, 22:1309-1316
Nowak RF, Lindsay DR (1992) Discrimination of Merino ewes by their newborn lambs: important for survival? Appi Anim Behav Sci, 34:61-74
Nowak R, Murphy TM, Lindsay DR, Alster Ρ, Andersson R, Uvnas-Moberg Κ (1997) Development of a preferential relationship with the mother by the newborn lamb: importance of the sucking activity. Physiol Behav, 62:681-688
Nowak R, Poindron Ρ (2006) From birth to colostrum: early steps leading to lamb survival. Reprod Nutr Dev, 46:431-446
Nowak R, Porter RH, Levy F, Orgeur P, Schaal Β (2000) Role of mother-young interactions in the survival of offspring in domestic mammals. Rev Reprod, 5:153-163
O'Connor CE, Lawrence AB, Woodgush DGM (1992) Influence of litter size and parity on maternal behaviour at parturition in Scottish Blackface sheep. Appi Anim Behav Sci, 33:345-355
Orihuela A, Suarez E, Vazquez R (2004) Effect of restricting suckling on the social bond between ewes and their 10-week-old lambs. Liv Prod Sci, 87:259-264
Owens JL, Bindon BM, Edey TN, Piper LR (1985) Behaviour at parturition and lamb survival of Boorola Merino sheep. Liv Prod Sci, 13:359-372
Pissonnier D, Thiery JC, Fabre-Nys C, Poindron P, Keverne EB (1985) The importance of olfactory bulb noradrenalin for maternal recognition in sheep. Physiol Behav, 35:361-362
Poindron Ρ (2005) Mechanisms of activation of maternal behavior in mammals. Reprod Nutr Dev, 45:341-351
Poindron P, Gilling G, Hernez H, Serafin N, Terrazas A (2003). Early recognition of newborn goat kids by their mother: I. Nonolfactory discrimination. Dev Psychobiol, 43:82-89
Poindron P, Le Neindre Ρ (1980) Endocrine and sensory regulation of maternal behavior in the ewe. Adv Study Behav, 11:75-119
Poindron P, Le Neindre P, Raksanyi I, Trillai G, Orgeur Ρ (1980) Importance of the characteristics of the young in the manifestation and establishment of maternal behaviour in sheep. Reprod Nutr Dev, 20:817-826
Poindron P, Levy F, Krehbiel D (1988) Genital, olfactory, and endocrine interactions in the development of maternal behavior in the parturient ewe. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 13:99-125
Poindron P, Martin GB, Hooley RD (1979) Effects of lambing induction on the sensitive period for the establishment of maternal behaviour in sheep. Physiol Behav, 23:1081-1087
Poindron P, Nowak R, Levy F, Porter RH, Schaal Β (1993) Development of exclusive mother-young bonding in sheep and goats. Oxf Rev Reprod Biol, 15:311-364
Poindron P, Orgeur P, Le Neindre P, Kann G, Raksanyi I (1980) Influence of the blood concentration of prolactin on the length of the sensitive period for the establishing maternal behaviour in sheep at parturition. Hormon Behav, 14:173-177
Poindron P, Rempel N, Troyer A, Krehbiel D (1989) Genital stimulation facilitates maternal behavior in estrous ewes. Horm Behav, 23:305-316
Pollard JC (1992) Effects of litter size on the vocal behaviour of ewes. Appi Anim Behav Sci, 34:75-84
Pollard JC, Shaw KJ, Littlejohn RP (1999) A note on sheltering behaviour by ewes before and after lambing. Appi Anim Behav Sci 61:313-318
Porter RH, Levy F, Poindron P, Litterio M, Schaal B, Beyer C (1991) Individual olfactory signatures as major determinants of early maternal discrimination in sheep. Dev Psychobiol, 24:151-158
Rattray PV (1992) Nutrition of the ewe during gestation and lactation. In: Progress in Sheep and Goat Research. CAB International, Wallingford, 85-106
Romeyer A, Poindron P, Orgeur Ρ (1994) Olfaction mediates the establishment of selective bonding in goats. Physiol Behav, 56:693-700
Scott MJ, Jones JET (1998). The carriage of Pasteurella haemolytica in sheep and its transfer between ewes and lambs in relation to mastitis. J Comp Pathol, 118:359-363
Searby A, Jouventin Ρ (2003). Mother-lamb acoustic recognition in sheep: a frequency coding. Proc Biol Sci, 270:765-771
Sharafeldin MA, Kandeel AA (1971) Post-lambing maternal behaviour. J Agric Sci Camb, 77:33-36
Shillito EE (1972) Vocalisation in sheep. J Physiol, 226:45-46
Shillito-Walser EE (1978) A comparison of the role of vision and hearing in ewes finding their own lamb. Appi Anim Ethol, 4:71-79
Shillito-Walser EE, Hague P, Walters E (1981) Vocal recognition of recorded lamb voices by ewes of three breeds of sheep. Behaviour, 78:260-272
Shillito-Walser EE, Walters E, Ellison J (1984) Observation on vocalization of ewes and lambs in the field. Behaviour, 91:190-203
Slee J, Springbett A (1986) Early post-natal behaviour in lambs often breeds. Appi Anim Behav Sci, 15:229-240
Smith FV (1965) Instinct and learning in the attachment of lamb ewe. Anim Behav, 13:84-86
Smith FV, Van-Toller C, Boyes Τ (1966) The "critical period" in the attachment of lambs and ewes. Anim Behav, 14:120-125
Sojetado RM (1952) The growth and habits of lambs. Philippine Agric, 35:572-578
Terrazas A, Ferreira G, Levy F, Nowak R,. Serafin N, Orgeur P, Soto R, Poindron Ρ (1999) Do ewes recognize their lambs within the first day postpartum without the help of olfactory cues? Behav Process, 47:19-29
Terrazas A, Nowak R, Serafin N, Ferreira G, Levy F, Poindron Ρ (2002) Twenty-four-hour-old lambs rely more on maternal behavior than on the learning of individual characteristics to discriminate between their own and an alien mother. Dev Psychobiol, 40:408-418
Val-Laillet D, Simon M, Nowak R (2004) A full belly and colostrum: two major determinants of filial love. Dev Psychobiol, 45:163-173
Vince MA (1984) Teat-seeking or pre-sucking behaviour in newlyborn lambs: possible effects of maternal skin temperature. Anim Behav, 32:249-254
Vince MA (1986) The response of the newly-born Clun Forest lamb to maternal vocalizations. Behaviour, 96:164-170
Vince MA (1992) The newly born lamb's patterns of movement before, during and after the first sucking bout. Appi Anim Behav Sci, 33:27-33
Vince MA, Lynch JJ, Motterhead BE, Green GC, Elwin RL (1987) Interactions between normal ewes and newly born lambs deprived of visual, olfactory tactile sensory information. Appi Anim Behav Sci, 19:119-136
Vince MA, Ward TM, Reader M (1984) Tactile stimulation and teat-seeking behaviour in newly born lambs. Anim Behav, 32:1179-1184
Weary DM, Fraser D (1995) Calling by domestic piglets: reliable signals of need? Anim Behav, 50:1047-1055
Winter AC (2000) Sheep welfare: standards and practice. In: Diseases of Sheep, 3rd edn. Blackwell, Oxford, 9-14
Zygoyiannis D (2006) Sheep production in the world and in Greece. Small Rumin Res, 62:143-147
Most read articles by the same author(s)