The purpose of this study was to determine if the nutrition of the oocyte donor ewe influenced the success of somatic cell cloning. Merino ewes were fed at either a high- or a low-nutrition level for 3–5 mo before superovulation treatments. Freshly ovulated oocytes were enucleated and fused with serum-starved adult granulosa cells, and resulting reconstructed embryos were cultured for 6 days in modified synthetic oviduct fluid. Embryo cleavage and development to blastocysts were recorded, and good-quality embryos were transferred to synchronized recipient ewes either fresh or, on a few occasions, after vitrification. Pregnancies were monitored by ultrasonography from Day 40 of pregnancy, and offspring were delivered by either cesarean section or vaginal delivery. No differences occurred in the numbers of follicles aspirated, of oocytes recovered, or of oocytes utilizable for cloning between the high and low groups. Neither were there treatment differences in development to the blastocyst stage. However, transfer of embryos from the high group led to significantly more pregnancies and implanted fetuses. Also, more of the established pregnancies from the high group were carried to term, although this difference was not statistically significant. Lamb mortality was high, with half the live-born perishing soon after birth and more succumbing to various infections within days or weeks of birth, but no clear association between the offspring fate and the treatment group could be established. These results suggest that more research into the effect of nutrition on oocyte quality and its subsequent effect on cloning is warranted.
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