Department of Animal Science


Date of this Version



Published in J. Anim. Sci. 2004. 82(E. Suppl.):E154–E161. Copyright © 2004 American Society of Animal Science. Used by permission.


Inadequate dietary energy intake and poor body condition can negatively affect reproductive function. Supplemental lipids have been used to increase energy density of the diet and may also have direct positive effects on reproduction in beef cattle. Several fatty acid sources have been studied as they relate to reproductive function. Common sources include sunflower, safflower, cottonseed, rice bran, soybeans, fishmeal, animal tallow, and calcium salts of fatty acids. Fats have been fed before and after calving, during the breeding season, and during heifer development. Response to fat has been investigated through measuring body weight and body condition score, age at puberty, postpartum interval, first-service conception rates, pregnancy rates, calving interval, calving difficulty, and calf birth and weaning weight. Animal response seems to depend on body condition score, age (parity), nutrients available in the diet, and type of fat supplemented. To elucidate potential mechanisms of action, scientists have investigated changes in follicular and uterine development, hormonal profiles, brain function, and embryonic development. Feeding supplemental fat has resulted in varied and inconsistent effects on reproductive function. Elucidating how supplemental fat can influence reproductive function has been a difficult process. The complexity of the reproductive system and makeup of fat supplements are often confounded by management conditions and forage quality both in research and commercial feeding situations.