A higher proportion of female lambs when ewes were fed oats and cottonseed meal prior to and following conception

C. E. Gulliver, M. A. Friend, B. J. King, J. F. Wilkins, E. H. Clayton

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11 Scopus citations


Diets high in omega-6 (n-6) fatty acids in mice have been associated with a higher proportion of female offspring, however, the specific effects of dietary fatty acids on the sex ratio of sheep has not previously been reported. The aim of the present study was to determine whether feeding ewes a diet differing in n-6 for 6 weeks before and 3 weeks following conception would increase the proportion of female lambs born. Merino × Border Leicester ewes (n = 296) were allocated to receive either a diet high in n-6 (70% oat grain, 8% cottonseed meal, High n-6 diet) or, a control diet low in n-6 (88% legume silage, Low n-6 diet), for 42 or 53 days before and 17 days after conception, using a stratified block randomisation procedure based on body condition score and liveweight. Following synchronisation, oestrus was detected daily during natural mating with rams. After mating, all ewes grazed improved pastures as one group until lambing. Plasma n-6 concentrations were greater (P < 0.001), the time to parturition was shorter (P < 0.001) and the proportion of female offspring was higher (58.2 vs 43.5%, P = 0.010) when ewes were fed the High n-6 diet compared with the Low n-6 diet. Further research is required to determine whether the observed differences in sex ratio were due to specific alterations in n-6 fatty acids, or other differences in the diets not specifically related to n-6 such as saturated fat or energy density.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)464-471
Number of pages8
JournalAnimal Production Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Omega-6
  • Prostaglandin
  • Sex ratio
  • Time of oestrus


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