The consequence of level of nutrition on heifer ovarian and mammary development1,2
Journal of Animal Science
Replacing cows in the herd is second only to nutrition as the single greatest input cost in cow/ calf beef production. The increased availability of cereal grains for feeding livestock has allowed replacement heifers to enter the production system at younger ages. Many heifer development programs feed to ensure heifers reach puberty before the time that they are mated to calve at 2 yr of age. Nutrition level during development has been associated with altered milk production and stayability. We
... hypothesized that heifers exposed to a lower nutrition level during the peripubertal period would have less methylation of the DNA in the mammary gland and ovarian cortex. We also hypothesized that the ovarian reserve would decrease in heifers fed for rapid growth compared to heifers fed for slow growth during puberty. At 257 ± 1 d of age, heifers in the Stair- Step treatment (n = 6) received 157 kcal ME/BW kg 0.75 for 84 d and heifers in the Conventional treatment (n = 6) were offered 228 kcal ME/BW kg 0.75 . At d 84, heifers were fed for an additional 83 d. Stair-Step heifers were offered 277 kcal ME/BW kg 0.75 , and heifers on the Conventional treatment received 228 kcal ME/BW kg 0.75 . Mammary weights (P = 0.43), capillary area density (P = 0.74), and capillary surface density (P = 0.18) did not differ between treatments and neither did alveolar number (P = 0.55) and alveolar density (P = 0.49). Reproductive tract weights (P = 0.69) and ovarian weight (P = 0.68) and ovarian size (P > 0.75) did not differ between treatments. In histological sections, Stair-Step heifers had more primordial follicles than Conventional heifers (P = 0.02), but primary (P = 0.59) and secondary (P = 0.15) follicles did not differ. Global methylation of parenchymal tissue (P = 0.82), mammary fat pad (P = 0.45), and ovarian cortex (P = 0.14) did not differ between treatments. Anterior pituitary weight did not differ between treatments (P = 0.16). Our hypothesis that modifying peripubertal nutrition modifies global methylation of the mammary and ovary is not supported; however, our hypothesis that it modifies the ovarian reserve is supported.