Physiological and behavioral responses of sheep to gaseous ammonia

C. J. C. Phillips, M.K. Pines, M. Latter, J.C. Muller, J.C. Petherick, Scott Norman, J.B. Gaughan

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22 Citations (Scopus)


Ammonia can accumulate in highly stocked sheep accommodation, for example during live export shipments, and could affect sheep health and welfare. Thus, the objective of this experiment was to test the effects of 4 NH3 concentrations, 4 (control), 12, 21, and 34 mg/m3, on the physiology and behavior of wether sheep. Sheep were held for 12 d under a micro-climate and stocking density similar to shipboard conditions recorded on voyages from Australia to the Middle East during the northern hemispheric summer. Ammonia increased macrophage activity in transtracheal aspirations, indicating active pulmonary inflammation; however, it had no effect (P > 0.05) on hematological variables. Feed intake decreased (P = 0.002) in proportion to ammonia concentration, and BW gain decreased (P < 0.001) at the 2 greatest concentrations. Exposure to ammonia increased (P = 0.03) the frequency of sneezing, and at the greatest ammonia concentration, sheep were less active, with less locomotion, pawing, and panting. Twenty-eight days after exposure to NH3, the pulmonary macrophage activity and BW of the sheep returned to that of sheep exposed to only 4 mg/m3. It was concluded that NH3 induced a temporary inflammatory response of the respiratory system and reduced BW gain, which together indicated a transitory adverse effect on the welfare of sheep.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1562-1569
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2012


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