From the left-field files - Viagra as the silver bullet for triplet lamb survival?!

If you're asked to name a drug that increases blood flow to somewhere in the body you'll probably laugh and answer ‘Viagra' - right?

Well did you know that Viagra (sildenafil citrate) also has this affect on the pregnant uterus?

Viagra has been shown to increase birthweight in rats and in single bearing ewes; presumably as a result of this improved blood flow through the placenta, and foetal growth mediators have been found in higher concentrations in the uterine fluids of treated animals.

The intrepid scientists at the International Centre for Sheep Research (Massey & AgResearch), armed with this knowledge, set out to determine whether the administration of this drug to ewes in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy, could improve triplet lamb survival.

The work was done under highly controlled conditions on a fairly small group of ewes, but the results have been quite startling and definitely an encouragement to continue looking further at the potential of Viagra.

Viagra-treated ewes showed the following improvements over untreated ewes:

  • 93% of treated ewes had all three lambs born alive versus 33% of untreated ewes
  • 88% overall lamb survival in the treated group versus 49% of untreated ewes' lambs
  • Treated ewes lambed four days later than untreated ewes
  • Lambs from treated ewes were heavier than lambs from untreated ewes
  • Treated ewes ate less but appeared in better condition

Wow! If we could find something that could consistently give us 88% survival in triplet lambs it would be easy to get enthusiastic about managing these ewes properly!

The Viagra was administered to these sheep three times a day through an indwelling catheter, so not something you'd easily do on-farm, but watch this space and perhaps in time we might have a simple solution to one of our big sheep production headaches!