Effect of Supplemental Vitamin E and A on Reproductive Performance and Serological Profiles of Ewes Managed in Drylot
Forty Hampshire and 40 Suffolk ewes were allotted to one of four groups (VitA, VitE, VitA&E, Control) in a 2 x 2 factorial treatment arrangement to evaluate the effect of supplemental vitamin E (0 or 300 IU) and vitamin A (0 or 250,000 IU) on reproductive performance. Laparoscopy and ultrasonography were used to measure ovulation rate, embryonic loss, and fetal loss. Serum profiles of a-tocopherol (vitamin E) and retinol (vitamin A) also were monitored. There were no differences (P>.05) among treatment groups in any reproductive trait. Suffolk ewes exhibited a higher (P<.02) ovulation rate than Hampshire ewes, and yearling ewes incurred higher (P<.001) embryonic loss than other age groups, resulting in a lower (P<.001) litter size. Serum levels of a-tocopherol were higher (P<.05) for Hampshire than for Suffolk ewes and were lower (P<.001) in yearling ewes versus ewes two years of age and older. Serum levels of a-tocopherol declined (P<.01) throughout the study in VitA and Control ewes but remained unchanged in VitE and VitA&E ewes. Serum level of retinol remained unchanged in VitA ewes, whereas the level increased (P<.01) initially in VitE, VitA&E, and Control ewes before declining toward initial levels. Correlations were detected between ovulation rate and the change of pre-mating a-tocopherol serum level (r=-.29; P<.02), the change in pre-mating retinol serum level (r=-.50; P<.02) and the interval from vitamin A injection (r=-.60; P<.05). These data indicate significant influences of breed, age, and treatment on a-tocopherol and retinol serum levels in ewes and suggest that the timing of vitamin A administration may influence ovulation rate; however, vitamin supplementation, administered at random stages of the estrous cycle, was unable to alter flock reproductive performance.