Preparation of an epithelium-free mammary fat pad and subsequent mammogenesis in ewes

R. C. Hovey, D. E. Auldist, D. D S Mackenzie, T. B. McFadden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The objective of this study was to develop a surgical procedure for the preparation of an epithelium-free mammary fat pad (cleared mammary fat pad; CFP) in ewes. At 7 to 10 d of age, ewe lambs (n = 43, mean BW 9.2 ± .2 kg at 14 d) were sedated and one mammary gland was locally anesthetized. An incision circumscribing the base of the teat was made and blunt dissection was performed through the extraneous mammary fat pad tissue to enable the parenchyma and teat to be wholly removed. Failure to completely remove the epithelium enabled it to regenerate and grow into the mammary fat pad. Mean diameter of the parenchymal rudiment at 7 to 10 d of age was 8.9 ± .5 mm (range of 5 to 16 mm). The excision site was closed with wound clips and recovered lambs returned to their dams. The contralateral mammary gland remained intact, allowing it to undergo normal development. Live weight gain was unaffected by this procedure. Ewes were subsequently slaughtered in groups at various stages of prepuberty, puberty, gestation, and lactation. Of 39 operated glands recovered, only one demonstrated epithelial outgrowth within the CFP. Parenchyma within the contralateral, intact gland underwent phases of rapid growth in prepuberty, puberty, and late gestation and was capable of milk synthesis after steroid induction or parturition. Change in weight of the CFP paralleled that of the intact mammary gland to 100 d of pregnancy. Sham CFP surgery was performed on four additional ewes wherein the parenchyma was completely excised and immediately replaced. Sham-operated epithelium populated the mammary fat pad and synthesized milk that could be expressed from the teat. A CFP in sheep will be a useful model for future investigations into the local growth regulatory mechanisms associated with ruminant mammogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2177-2185
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Epithelium
  • Mammary Development
  • Mammary Tissue
  • Ontogenty
  • Sheep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology


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