The effects of late gestation nutrient restriction of dams on beef heifer intake, metabolites and hormones during an ad libitum feeding trial

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Beef cattle are often produced in pastoral systems in which resources may be limiting in quantity or quality at some part of the year corresponding to different phases of the production cycle (Funston, Larson, & Vonnahme, 2010; Wu, Bazer, Wallace, & Spencer, 2006). A vast majority of ruminant foetal growth occurs during the last 2 months of gestation (Holland & Odde, 1992; Robinson, McDonald, Fraser, & Crofts, 1977); making it important to understand how nutrient restriction (NR) during this critical time period affects offspring post‐weaning and during growth. Calves born to dams experiencing NR during late gestation often exhibit poor growth and productivity (Funston et al., 2010). Late gestation NR has been shown to negatively impact glucose and insulin regulation in humans (Plagemann, 2006), lambs (Gardner et al., 2005) and rodents (Desai, Crowther, Ozanne, Lucas, & Hales, 1995). Offspring from NR dams are also more likely to develop issues such as increased adiposity (Bipsham et al., 2003) and respiratory diseases (Larson, Martin, Adams, & Funston, 2009).
The main site of appetite regulation is in the arcuate nucleus found in the hypothalamus (Luquet, Perez, Hnaska, & Palmiter, 2005). Specific alterations in foetal metabolic/energy environment directly influence the development of appetite regulatory pathways and can lead to altered consumption patterns throughout the entire lifespan (Ross & Desai, 2014). Yura et al. (2005) suggest that a postnatal surge in leptin can programme the appetite centre in the hypothalamus. Manipulation of maternal diet leads to alteration of the postnatal leptin surge of offspring immediately after birth and results in increased appetite in rodents (Yura et al., 2005) and lambs (Long, Ford, & Nathanielsz, 2011). Beef cattle have a different leptin profile than most species, characterized by an increase in plasma leptin for the first 2 days of life followed by a plateau rather than an immediate postnatal surge (Long & Schafer, 2013). The long‐term effects of late gestation maternal nutrient restriction on heifer offspring appetite and endocrine regulation are unknown. We hypothesized that maternal nutrient restriction during late gestation would affect feed intake of heifers as well as endocrine regulation.
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