Meat Scientist Amanda Blair of SDSU Talks Generational Effects of Fetal Programming in Beef CowsTue, 23 Apr 2019 18:30:57 CDT
Beef cows eat for two—or three
Sometimes cattlemen recall bad weather, drought or other feed shortage, thinking their bad luck carried on to the calf crop born that year. Turns out, it was probably more than chance.
In this segment, we learn more about the work going on at universities across the country to uncover that connection.
How many months out of a year is a mother cow just eating for one?
Amanda Blair, South Dakota State University meat scientist says, "She should really never be eating just for herself. You know, at different times during the year, she’s hopefully either gestating, gestating and lactating, and you know, there really should be no time that she’s --just eating for herself. She should be supporting one or two calves at different points during gestation and lactation. So, you know, if a cow’s not--if she is ever eating for herself, she probably shouldn’t be around anymore, she should be in the cull pen.”
Simply put, it matters what mama eats. And that’s an emerging area of study in beef cattle.
“Fetal programming is simply the concept that the gestational environment can impact the lifetime outcomes of the offspring. So, those outcomes might be things like health or reproductive traits or meat quality, even. "
Right now researchers say there’s no one-size-fits-all recommendation. Supplement their nutrition or don’t? Add more protein? There is a biological effect, but what’s the economic implication?
The data is hard to gather and interpret.
“There’s a lot of challenges to it. One is just the time that it takes. Especially working with beef cattle, you know, working with sheep or hogs this would be a lot more rapid turnover, and that makes it a challenge, you know, to look at some of those generational effects that we talked about. These are epigenetic effects that can translate to the next generation, so those studies take an incredibly long time, which translates to a lot of dollars."
Beef-cattle work mostly focuses on the practical application. Typically, producers don’t miss nutritional targets by drastic amounts, but rather small insults.
“There’s a lot of work out there that, it goes very, very extreme. Especially using mouse or sheep models, you know, they can restrict them 50% or overfeed them by a 150% percent. You know, in the cattle industry, that’s just not realistic, so we really tried hard with our research to really hone in on what might be production-applicable. "
They might structure a study around losing one body condition score, or cutting protein by 20%, for example.
Blair spoke as part of Cattlemen’s College at the Cattle Industry Convention and Trade Show in New Orleans, earlier this year.She says as they learn more, they’ll share more.
Source: CAB and the American Angus Association
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