Feeding During Pregnancy
Maxine Kinne

This summarizes an article from The Journal of Agricultural Science (1992), written by Dr. A.I.A. Osuagwuh, of the Department of Veterinary Surgery and Reproduction, University of Ibadan, Nigeria, who conducted a study on nutrition during gestation entitled, "Effects of Strategic Feed Supplementation During Pregnancy on Birth Weight and Perinatal Survival of West African Dwarf Kids." In an earlier study, Dr. Osuagwuh demonstrated a positive relationship between crude protein intake and fetal weight gain.

In this study, varied measured amounts of concentrates (grain) were fed to three separate groups of pregnant West African Dwarf Goats (WAD), the distant ancestors of American Pygmies. The experiment assessed the impact of varying levels of nutrition on birthing ease, fetal birth weights, neonatal vigor, and neonatal weight gain during the first month of life. The mothers' udder capacities was measured, and milk production in each group was reflected in the kids' daily weight gains. Forage (hay) was continuously available, as were water and salt licks.

Fifteen WAD does were randomly divided into three equal groups, each confined to its own pen for the duration of the study. Each doe was individually bred to the same buck when she came into heat. Each group received a specific quantity of grain supplement at different gestational periods. All births were observed for difficulties, and each doe raised her own litter. All newborns were weighed within 24 hours of birth, and again weekly until 28 days of age, to determine average daily gain. Each doe's udder circumference was measured on the day after she gave birth. Kid mortality was recorded and necropsy determined the cause of each death.

Grain
Amounts

Grain Fed
Period

Kids
Born

Kids' Avg.
Birth Weight

Kids' Avg.
Daily Gain

Group A

1 cup

day 1 - term

9

3.26 lbs.

2.72 oz.

Group B

none
1 cup
1/2 cup

day 1 - 60
61 - 120
121 - term

9

3.08 lbs.

2.75 oz.

Group C

none
1/2 cup
1 cup

day 1 - 60
61 - 120
121 - term

9

2.31 lbs.

1.93 oz.

Average weight at breeding was 61 pounds, ± 6.5 lbs.
It was not noted whether any does had previously reproduced.

Gestation length averaged 146.5 days across all groups.

Group A
(overfed)

 

Received concentrates throughout pregnancy
Had the only kidding problems in the study
Kidding problems were due to large fetuses - 2 of the 5 does required Caesarian section
Absolute fetal oversize occurred when the fetuses were 3.63 pounds.
Fetal growth rate pattern in the WAD makes a high level of feeding unnecessary from days 1-70
A high level of feeding is not necessary between days 1-70
A high level of feeding is not necessary between days 120 to term
Group B Received concentrates at optimal time for fetal growth and survival
Had moderately sized kids with no problem births and no deaths
Kids had the highest average daily weight gain
Concentrate restrictions during pregnancy did not affect birth weights, survival or growth rates
Concentrate feeding between days 61-120 is the most important period for strong, survivable kids
Group C
(underfed)
Received less concentrate days 61-120, part of the critical period of fetal growth (days 90-120)
Had very low birth weights, weak kids at birth and the only deaths in the study (45% died)
Neonatal death was preceded by progressive weight loss and weakness - cause of death was starvation
Milk production in the mothers was equal to the other groups
Neonatal deaths were related to reduced concentrate feeding between days 61-120
The 5 living kids gained one-third less weight in their first month than kids in the other groups
Increased concentrates in the last month did not improve birth weights, survival or growth rates

Overall, this study points out that:
*  Goat fetuses do not grow much during the first 3 months of pregnancy.
*  The WAD doe does not need grain until 60 days after breeding.
*  Heavy concentrate feeding during late gestation leads to obstetric problems.
*  Reducing grain intake in the last month of gestation does not significantly affect birth weight.
*  Reducing grain intake in the last month of gestation does not significantly affect the kids' neonatal performance.
*  Supplements are the most valuable in the middle of gestation when fetal growth is most affected by it.

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