JOURNAL OF ANIMAL SCIENCE, vol.78, no.9, pp.2237-2243, 2000 (SCI-Expanded)
The effect of active immunization against GnRH on production, carcass, and behavioral traits was examined in ram lambs fed to a uniform slaughter weight. Lambs (initial BW = 32.6 +/- 1 kg) were stratified by BW and assigned at random to one of four treatment groups (n = 12 lambs/group). Lambs were untreated, castrated, or actively immunized against GnRH using a GnRH-keyhole limpet hemocyanin conjugate (1 mg) emulsified with either Freund's complete adjuvant (FCA) or another oil-based adjuvant (ISA). Animals were housed individually and slaughtered at 58 kg BW. Immunoneutralization of GnRH reduced (P < .05) testes weight and the concentration of testosterone in serum at slaughter. Suppression of testicular size and function was most clearly evident in animals immunized using FCA. Final anti-GnRH titer was also highest in lambs immunized using FCA. Several measures of sexual behavior (frequency of mounts and ejaculations) were also reduced (P < .05) in animals immunized using FCA. The duration of the feeding period was greater (P < .05) for castrated lambs than for untreated lambs, and intermediate feeding periods were required for FCA and ISA lambs. Average daily gain was greater (P < .05) in untreated than in castrated, FCA, or ISA lambs. Similarly, feed efficiency for untreated lambs was greater (P < .05) than for castrated, FCA, or ISA lambs, but feed efficiency did not differ among castrated,FCA, or ISA lambs. Longissimus muscle area, lean and bone maturity, overall quality, muscling score, flank streaking, and color of fat did not differ among treatments. Intact, FCA, and ISA lambs had more (P < .05) desirable yield grades, less (P < .05) backfat, and less (P < .05) marbling than castrated lambs. In summary, immunization against GnRH decreased testicular weight and reduced (P < .05) feedlot performance and sexual behavior to levels comparable to those of castrated males. Partitioning of nutrients for growth and deposition of fat, however, seems to differ among immunologically castrated and physically castrated lambs. This difference in nutrient partitioning may be due to residual testicular activity in immunized lambs.