Animal Science Department


Date of this Version



Range Beef Cow Symposium XXIII, December 3-5, 2013, Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, Rapid City, SD.


Copyright © 2013 A. F. Summers and R. N. Funston.


The concept of fetal programming, also known as developmental programming, was first hypothesized using human epidemiological data in which environmental stimulus in utero resulted in altered long term development, growth and disease susceptibility in children from undernourished mothers during the Dutch famine (Barker et al., 1993). Recently, literature regarding fetal programming effects in domesticated livestock has been reviewed (Funston et al., 2010a; Ford and Long, 2012). Many factors influence livestock nutrient requirements including breed, season, and physiological function (NRC, 2000). Fetal programming responses can result from a negative nutrient environment, which can be caused by 1) breeding of young dams who compete for nutrients with rapidly growing fetal systems; 2) increased incidences of multiple fetuses or large litters; 3) selection for increased milk production, which competes for nutrients with increased energy demand from fetal and placental growth; or 4) breeding of livestock during high environmental temperatures and pregnancy occurring during periods of poor pasture conditions (Wu et al., 2006; Reynolds et al., 2010). Studies have reported instances of compromised maternal nutrition during gestation resulting in increased neonatal mortality, intestinal and respiratory dysfunction, metabolic disorders, decreased postnatal growth rates, and reduced meat quality (Wu et al., 2006). Proper management of cow nutrition during gestation can improve progeny performance and health.

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