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ARS Home » Plains Area » Clay Center, Nebraska » U.S. Meat Animal Research Center » Nutrition and Environmental Management Research » Research » Research Project #433077

Research Project: Applying Developmental Programming to Improve Production Efficiency in Beef Cattle

Location: Nutrition and Environmental Management Research

Project Number: 3040-31000-096-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Jul 31, 2017
End Date: Jul 30, 2022

Objective:
Objective 1: Apply developmental programming to improve production efficiency of beef cattle. Sub-objective 1.A: Apply fetal programming to improve progeny performance. Sub-objective 1.B: Apply nutritional programming in the peri-pubertal period to improving performance. Objective 2: Identify genetic and epigenetic mechanisms that contribute to early embryonic development. Sub-objective 2.A: Determine the influence of resveratrol on early embryonic development. Sub-objective 2.B: Determine the influence of non-esterified fatty acids on early embryonic development in cows differing in antral follicle number. Sub-objective 2.C: Determine the influence of a loss of function polymorphism in the follicle stimulating hormone receptor gene on cumulus cell function and early embryonic development. Objective 3: Identify maternal contributions to progeny performance. Sub-objective 3.A: Identify contributions of uterine proteins to conceptus development in beef heifers differing in antral follicle number. Sub-objective 3.B: Determine the influence of age of dam on progeny performance.

Approach:
Beef heifers that conceive early in their first breeding season have greater reproductive longevity and enhanced lifetime productivity. We reported that this is due, in part, to an increase in the number of antral follicles in their ovaries without any difference in Reproductive Tract Score or age at puberty. In the previous project period, we applied developmental programming (i.e., nutritional modifications at key stages of development) to heifers to increase the percentage that conceived early in their first breeding season and to increase the numbers of primordial follicles in their ovaries. The current project plan will determine if this resulted in increased reproductive longevity for these heifers and validate models that report the use of developmental programming to improve carcass characteristics in steer progeny (Objective 1). In Objective 2, we will investigate how nutrition and hormonal environment can impact the function of the genome during early embryonic development to better understand the factors contributing to fetal programming. In Objective 3, we will examine the maternal contributions to developmental programming by examining the influence of uterine function on conceptus development and the age of the dam on progeny performance. This research is critical to understand how early life events can impact adult traits and how we can harness developmental programming to improve the efficiency of beef production.