Fetal programming in beef cattle

Professor Márcio Ladeira discusses the global application of beef studies as well as the benefits gained through pre-natal nutrition and fetal programming.

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Fetal programming in beef cattle

Professor Marcio Ladeira, of the Federal University of Lavras, Brazil, was interviewed after he addressed the audience during the symposium which marked the official opening of Trouw Nutrition's new Calf & Beef Research Facility in the Netherlands last April. In his interview he spoke about how the results of beef cattle studies in tropical countries like Brazil could be applied worldwide, the possibilities of modulating carcass composition through pre-natal nutrition, and the benefits farmers gain from the additional investment fetal programming requires.

While Professor Ladeira's own research emphasizes the role fetal programming can have in tropical countries, where the often dry winter climate makes it difficult for cows to get the required nutrition while gestating, he feels the results of studies in his native Brazil can be applied to other countries around the world with low forage availability as well. In fact, any country where cows experience energy and protein restrictions due to climate could benefit from understanding the importance of fetal programming.

As some countries are experiencing problems with carcass composition including lack of marbling and issues with intramuscular fat deposition, Professor Ladeira proposes that if you change the nutritional plan during gestation, the offspring will respond accordingly, especially if you go with more energy and more starch in the feed. He explained that the results he has seen so far indicate that you can indeed move the marbling and back fat of steers in a positive direction by altering pre-natal nutrition.

When asked why he feels it's important for farmers and those on the front lines in raising beef cattle to understand fetal programming, Professor Ladeira remarked that since upping the level of nutrition for gestating cows does indeed incur additional costs, it's necessary for those affected by low or poor quality forage availability to know that while production costs will in fact go up, the benefits on the back end will more than make up for the extra investment.

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