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    Early detection of sheep pregnancy and the prediction of how many lambs a pregnant ewe delivers affects sheep farmers in a number of ways, most notably with regard to feed management, lambing rate, and sheep/lamb health. The standard practice for direct detection of sheep pregnancy and litter size (PLS) is ultrasonography. However, this approach has a number of limitations. Indirect measurement of PLS using blood biomarkers could offer a simpler, faster and earlier route to PLS detection. Therefore, we undertook a large-scale metabolomics study to identify and validate predictive serum biomarkers of sheep PLS. We conducted a longitudinal experiment that analyzed 131 serum samples over five timepoints (from seven days pre-conception to 70 days post-conception) from six commercial flocks in Alberta and Ontario, Canada. Using LC-MS/MS and NMR, we identified and quantified 107 metabolites in each sample. We also identified three panels of serum metabolite biomarkers that can predict ewe PLS as early as 50 days after breeding. These biomarkers were then validated in separate flocks consisting of 243 animals yielding areas-under-the-receiver-operating-characteristic-curve (AU-ROC) of 0.81-0.93. The identified biomarkers could lead to the development of a simple, low-cost blood test to measure PLS at an early stage of pregnancy, which could help optimize reproductive management on sheep farms. © 2022. The Author(s).


    Seyed Ali Goldansaz, Susan Markus, Graham Plastow, David S Wishart. Predictive blood biomarkers of sheep pregnancy and litter size. Scientific reports. 2022 Jun 20;12(1):10307

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    PMID: 35725997

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