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ARS Home » Plains Area » Clay Center, Nebraska » U.S. Meat Animal Research Center » Livestock Bio-Systems » Research » Research Project #433077

Research Project: Improving Livestock Production by Developing Reproductive and Precision Management Technologies

Location: Livestock Bio-Systems

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. Objective 2: Improve swine production by identifying factors contributing to prenatal piglet development and survival and postnatal preweaning mortality. Objective 3: Increase productivity and longevity of replacement gilts by identifying and defining physiological and environmental factors underlying developmental and reproductive processes. Objective 4: Enhance sow performance and retention within the breeding herd by identifying physiological and environmental features at critical periods throughout life that contribute to production and longevity. Objective 5 (new): Develop precision management technologies for livestock to automate measuring production traits.

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.