Global changes in industry and society have led us to reassess the numerous factors that combine to influence the time of onset of puberty and the efficiency of reproduction in young sheep. Age and weight have long been considered the dominant factors that influence the onset of puberty and, for many years, it has been accepted that these relationships are mediated by the hormone, leptin, produced by body fat. However, recent studies showing that muscle mass also plays a role have challenged this dogma and also presented new options for our understanding of metabolic inputs into the brain control of reproduction. Moreover, the possibility that an improvement in meat production will simultaneously advance puberty is exciting from an industry perspective. An industry goal of strong reproductive performance in the first year of life is becoming possible and, with it, a major step upwards in the lifetime reproductive performance of ewes. The concept of early puberty is not well accepted by producers for a variety of reasons, but the new data show clear industry benefits, so the next challenge is to change that perception and encourage producers to manage young ewes so they produce their first lamb at 1 year of age.
Rosales Nieto, C., Thompson, A. N., & Martin, G. (2018). A new perspective on managing the onset of puberty and early reproductive performance in ewe lambs: a review. Animal Production Science, 58(11), 1967-1975. https://doi.org/10.1071/AN17787