Poor nutrition is a common scenario in beef cattle production systems. Dams are usually managed under extensive conditions in which feed availability depends on pastures and limited forage resources. Undernutrition during cow early pregnancy will have important consequences not only for the cow but also for the fetus, which will have to modify its physiology to survive in a sparse uterine environment. These adaptive mechanisms, known as fetal programming, will modulate the fetus development leading to lower performance and potential metabolic diseases in its postnatal life.
Through an investigation carried out in CITA de Aragón, Spain (Effects of maternal nutrition on embryo growth and offspring: implications for beef productive efficiency, INIA RTA2013-00059-C02-00, 2014-2018), it was concluded that ensuring adequate nutrition during the first stages of gestation is essential to meet the dam nutritional requirements. Maternal dietary intake will influence critical processes for embryo/fetus development. The research study started when dams (1st generation, F0) were inseminated and blocked into two groups according to the nutritional treatment they would receive during the first third of pregnancy (Control vs. Undernourished). After parturition, male offspring (2nd generation, F1) were fattened and slaughtered at 12 months of age. Female offspring (2nd generation, F1) were inseminated and calved at 25 months of age. Finally, heifer’s offspring (3rd generation, F2) were weaned at 4 months of age. The research experiment took 39 months in total.
Nutritional status of a cow measured by its body condition
The nutritional value of a diet presents a huge variability depending on its composition, food preservation, the season of the year, etc. An indirect but easy and simple way to evaluate the nutritional status of a cow is by measuring its body condition score (BCS). Regardless of cow weight, the BCS estimates the body fat reserves and, therefore, is an easy-to-apply tool to check that the feed provided met the dam nutritional requirements. It is well established that dams should calf in a 2.5-3.0 BCS status (on a 1 to 5 scale, Figure 1).
Figure 1. Examples of different body condition score (BCS) in beef dams.
|minimizing the risk of potential metabolic diseases in the progeny.|
|maximizing the cow-calf performance|
Authors: Agustí Noya, Isabel Casasús and Albina Sanz (researchers from CITA de Aragón (firstname.lastname@example.org))
Source of information:
“A negative energy balance during the peri-implantational period reduces dam IGF-1 but does not alter progesterone or pregnancy-specific protein B (PSPB) or fertility in suckled cows”. Noya A., Casasús I., Rodríguez-Sánchez J. A., Ferrer J., Sanz A. (2020). Domestic Animal Endocrinology, 72: 106418. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.domaniend.2019.106418
“Effects of maternal subnutrition during early pregnancy on cow hematological profiles and offspring physiology and vitality in two beef breeds”. Noya A., Serrano-Pérez B., Villalba D., Casasús I., Molina E., López-Helguera I., Sanz A. (2019). Animal Science Journal, 90: 857-869. https://doi.org/10.1111/asj.13215
“Maternal nutrient restriction in early pregnancy increases the risk of late embryo loss despite no effects on peri-implantation interferon-stimulated genes in suckler beef cattle”. Serrano-Pérez B., Molina E., Noya A., López-Helguera I., Casasús I., Sanz A., Villalba D. (2020). Research in Veterinary Science, 128: 69-75. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rvsc.2019.10.023
“Long-term effects of maternal subnutrition in early pregnancy on cow-calf performance, immunological and physiological profiles during the next lactation”. Noya A., Casasús I., Ferrer J., Sanz A. (2019). Animals, 9: 936 https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9110936
“Effects of developmental programming caused by maternal nutrient intake on postnatal performance of beef heifers and their calves”. Noya A., Casasús I., Ferrer J., Sanz A. (2019). Animals, 9: 1072. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9121072
“Long-term effects of early maternal undernutrition on the growth, physiological profiles, carcass and meat quality of male beef offspring”. Noya A., Ripoll G., Casasús I., Sanz A. (2022). Research in Veterinary Science, 142: 1-11. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rvsc.2021.10.025
"Repercusiones de la restricción alimentaria durante el primer tercio de gestación sobre los parámetros fisiológicos y los rendimientos de la vaca nodriza y su descendencia". Noya A. (2020). Tesis Doctoral. Universidad de Zaragoza. http://hdl.handle.net/10532/5131