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Fetal programming in 2-year-old calving heifers: peri-conception and first trimester protein restriction alters fetal growth in a gender-specific manner

Fetal programming in 2-year-old calving heifers: peri-conception and first trimester protein restriction alters fetal growth in a gender-specific manner

Animal Production Science 54(9): 1333-1337

Protein restriction in early bovine gestation affects post-natal reproduction and production traits in progeny. This experiment evaluated the effects of dietary protein restriction during the peri-conception period and first trimester in yearling heifers on conceptus growth and development; this period of dietary intervention being earlier than any previous bovine fetal programming studies. Three-hundred and sixty primiparous 12-month-old Santa Gertrudis heifers were individually fed high [14% crude protein (CP)] or low (7% CP) diets for 60 days before conception. At 23 days post-conception (dpc), each high (HPERI) or low (LPERI) group was again split into high (HPOST) or low (LPOST) protein groups yielding four treatment groups in a 2 2 factorial design. From the end of the first trimester of gestation (98dpc), the pregnant heifers were individually fed a 12% CP diet until parturition. Forty-six fetuses were excised at 98dpc. Sixty-four heifers went on to calve. Conceptus development was assessed via transrectal ultrasound from 36dpc, fetal necropsy at 98dpc and live calf measures at term. At 36dpc, HPERI diet increased fetal crown-rump length (CRL) (P < 0.05) and at the 60dpc scan, biparietal diameter (BPD) tended to be increased by HPOST diet (P < 0.1) though the greater effect upon BPD was still the HPERI diet (P < 0.05). At 60dpc, BPD in the male fetus was affected by the peri-conception diet (P < 0.05), while in females, BPD was not different among nutritional groups. These ultrasound measures of fetal growth were validated by measures of the excised fetus at 98dpc. Fetal weight was heavier (P < 0.01) in those whose mothers were fed the HPOST diet than their LPOST counterparts. Males fetuses were heavier than female fetuses (P < 0.001). Fetal CRL was increased by HPERI diet (P < 0.05) and tended to be increased by HPOST diet (P < 0.1). Fetal BPD tended to be increased by HPERI diet (P < 0.1). In males, BPD tended to be increased in those fetuses whose mothers were fed HPERI (P < 0.1). For females, maternal nutrition during PERI or POST did not affect BPD at 98dpc (P > 0.1). At term, no dietary effect on birthweight was observed (P > 0.1) and males were not heavier than females (P > 0.1). These results suggest that maternal protein intake during the peri-conception (-60 to 23dpc) and first trimester (24-98dpc) may influence early conceptus growth and development in the bovine. The long-term effects on offspring metabolism and post-natal development of this dietary intervention are yet to be determined.

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Accession: 066287739

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DOI: 10.1071/AN14278

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