Poor fetal growth is commonly caused by placental insufficiency. In sheep, multiple fetuses have relatively small placentae with fewer cotyledons than singletons, limiting blood flow to the placenta, especially in late gestation when fetal growth rate is highest. Factors that reduce fetal growth, such as maternal genotype, nutrition, age, parity, fetal number, or environmental temperature, typically reduce placental size and are associated with lower rates of fetal oxygen and nutrient uptakes and placental blood flow (Reynolds & Redmer 2001). Further, circumstances that influence placental vascular development have a dramatic impact on fetal growth and development, and affect neonatal survival and growth (Borowicz et al. 2007; Satterfield et al, 2010). Sildenafil citrate (SC, trade names Viagra or Avigra) increases vasodilatation of uteroplacental vessels (Wareing et al. 2005) and may represent a novel therapy to improve fetal lamb growth. Sildenafil citrate has successfully increased birth weight in rodent models and singleton bearing ewes (Satterfield et al. 2010; Miller at al. 2009). There is no published information regarding the use of SC in multiple-bearing ewes. The objective of this trial was to determine if SC administration to triplet-bearing ewes in late gestation could increase lamb birth weight. In addition, the influence of SC on the incidence of pregnancy toxaemia is also reported here.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, 2016, 76 pp. 172 - 174 (3)