From the human research we can learn that very, very early triggers on the metabolism affecting a mammal, independently of whether it is a baby, whether it is a calf, whether it is a piglet, have long-lasting effects for subsequent life. The environment of the baby, the environment of the calf, before parturition and during the first weeks of the development have consistent and strong effects for the performance in later life.
That’s what we learned about these issues from human medicine. Because metabolic programming is a focus especially of doctors working about diabetes, working about metabolic syndrome in humans, I would say that most research groups are working about the impact of metabolic programming for the risk of metabolic diseases on subsequent life in humans-- for the risk to suffer from diabetes, for example. And the theory, the model, the idea about the impact of metabolic programming for food animals, this is just since a few years, the focus of the research.
Originally, metabolic programming was an issue for human medicine. It means that, focusing on the calf, the first few weeks of life have a tremendous importance. Some years ago, only a few decades ago, it was just the intention of the farmer that the calf survived the first weeks. The calves received 2 litres of milk in the morning, 2 in the evening, and we underestimated the impact of a proper feeding level for the healthy status in the short run and even for the effects on performance in later life in the long run. And nowadays, the first weeks of life of the calf are the focus of interest, and not only the result in respect to the dairy cow at the very end.
The next big thing is to transform the expertise which is now available from human medicine, from animal models, to practical agricultural practice. And this conference is a nice step to do exactly that, to transform scientific knowledge into practical agricultural routines.