Agricultural Research Division of IANR


Date of this Version



Published in J. Anim. Sci. 2010. 88(E. Suppl.):E205–E215. Copyright © 2010 American Society of Animal Science. doi:10.2527/jas.2009-2351


Developmental programming is the concept that a maternal stimulus or insult at a critical period in fetal development has long-term effects on the offspring. Historically, considerable effort has been made to understand how nutrition influences health and productivity during the postnatal period. Whereas maternal nutrition during pregnancy plays an essential role in proper fetal and placental development, less is known about how maternal nutrition affects the health and productivity of the offspring. Conceptus growth is sensitive to direct and indirect effects of maternal dietary intake. Even from the earliest stages of embryonic life, when nutrient requirements for conceptus growth are negligible, alterations in tissue composition can occur, influencing future growth of the compromised organ system. Not only is neonatal health compromised, but subsequent health may also be programmed because offspring from undernourished dams have exhibited poor growth and productivity and have developed significant diseases later in life. Although the literature is now evolving, with increasing evidence of how maternal nutrient restriction impairs several prenatal physiological variables, few studies have evaluated postnatal growth and development in livestock species, and fewer have evaluated it in beef cattle. In addition, very few studies have evaluated restriction of specific components of the diet during pregnancy (such as protein) on offspring growth and performance. This review focuses on how maternal nutrition affects conceptus growth and postnatal responses in beef cattle.

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