Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » Clay Center, Nebraska » U.S. Meat Animal Research Center » Nutrition and Environmental Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #314193

Research Project: STRATEGIES TO IMPROVE HEIFER SELECTION AND HEIFER DEVELOPMENT

Location: Nutrition and Environmental Management Research

Title: Postweaning nutritional programming of ovarian development in beef heifers

Author
item AMUNDSON, OLIVIA - South Dakota State University
item FOUNTAIN, TARA - Kansas State University
item LARIMORE, E - South Dakota State University
item RICHARDSON, B - South Dakota State University
item McNeel, Anthony
item Wright, Elane
item KEISLER, D - University Of Missouri
item Cushman, Robert - Bob
item PERRY, GEORGE - South Dakota State University
item Freetly, Harvey

Submitted to: Journal of Animal Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/21/2015
Publication Date: 11/10/2015
Publication URL: http://handle.nal.usda.gov/10113/61667
Citation: Amundson, O.L., Fountain, T.H., Larimore, E.L., Richardson, B.N., McNeel, A.K., Wright, E.C., Keisler, D.H., Cushman, R.A., Perry, G.A., Freetly, H.C. 2015. Postweaning nutritional programming of ovarian development in beef heifers. Journal of Animal Science. 93(11):5232-5239. doi: 10.2527/jas2015-9067

Interpretive Summary: In this study, two groups of heifers were developed to pre-breeding status. One group received a control diet, while the other received a caloric restricted (Stair-Step) diet during the post-weaning growth phase. Both groups were evaluated at three different time points (8 mo, 11 mo, and 13 mo). This was done to determine the timing of changes in primordial follicle numbers and evaluate the influence of leptin, roundabout axon guidance receptor, homolog 4 (ROBO4) and anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) genes on formation and activation of primordial follicles. Heifers receiving the Stair-Step diet had a greater amount of primordial follicles at 13 mo of age, a greater serum leptin concentration and ROBO4 mRNA abundance at 11 mo of age, and a tendency for greater AMH mRNA abundance at 11 mo of age. Control heifers had a greater amount of primary follicles at 11 mo of age. This study indicates that the ovarian reserve can be positively affected when exposing heifers to a single-phase Stair-Step program. While we did not see leptin stimulating follicle formation, differences in AMH and ROBO4 abundance in the ovaries may be important regulators controlling the number of follicles in the ovary and ultimately fertility in these heifers.

Technical Abstract: From weaning to breeding, nutritional management of replacement females is critical to their lifetime productivity. Traditionally, cereal grains have been used to develop replacement heifers to enter the breeding system at a younger age. Overfeeding heifers decreases the number of calves weaned, while peri-pubertal caloric restriction increases primordial follicle numbers in the developing ovary. The mechanisms by which this increase in primordial follicle number occurs are unknown, the objective of this study was to determine the timing of changes in primordial follicle numbers and evaluate the influence of leptin, roundabout axon guidance receptor, homolog 4 (ROBO4), Slit2, and anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) genes on formation and activation of primordial follicles in beef heifers. Crossbred heifers (n = 30) were fed a control ration consisting of 30% alfalfa hay, 69.8% corn silage and 0.2% salt as dry matter. At 8 mo of age, 6 heifers were ovariectomized. The remaining 24 heifers were divided into 2 treatment groups (n = 12 heifers/treatment). Heifers in the Stair-Step treatment received 67.4 g DM / BW '"kg" '^0.75, and heifers in Control treatment were offered 97.9 g DM / BW '"kg" '^0.75 for 84 d and ovariectomized. At 84 d, the remaining heifers were fed for an additional 83 d, Stair-Step heifers received 118.9 g DM / BW '"kg" '^0.75 and Control heifers received 97.9 g DM / BW '"kg" '^0.75. Heifers were ovariectomized at the end of the feeding period. Pieces of ovarian cortex were fixed in paraformaldehyde for histology or snap frozen for real-time RT-PCR. Body weight (P > 0.10) did not differ between treatments. Plasma leptin concentrations were greater in Control than Stair-Step heifers at 11 mo of age (P < 0.0001). In histological sections, Stair-Step heifers had more primordial follicles (P = 0.03) than Control heifers at 13 mo of age. There was no difference in secondary or antral follicle numbers between dietary treatment groups or ages. Ovarian ROBO4 and Slit2 mRNA abundance increased with age (P = 0.001), and increased more rapidly in Stair-Step heifers between 11- and 13 mo of age. Abundance of AMH mRNA did not change due to dietary treatment or age (P > 0.10). In conclusion, developing heifers on a Stair-Step compensatory growth scheme increased the size of the ovarian reserve prior to the onset of breeding, which may have beneficial effects on increasing reproductive lifespan as well as decreasing development costs.