Institution: University of Nottingham
Fetal Programming of Fertility in Ruminants
When a mammal undergoes fetal development it is unlike other animals because food supplies and other environmental factors are controlled to some extent by the mother. Whilst the placenta acts as a normally efficient barrier between the mother and her offspring, some differences in maternal environment caused by stress, nutrition, disease and breed genetics can result in changes to the offspring measured either by birthweight, organ development, organ function or gene expression levels. These changes can predispose the offspring to disease and other outcomes in later life; this is known as fetal programming.
It has been observed, in a small scale study, that offspring with low birthweight go on to have lowered reproductive success in adult life. By looking into factors measured at birth and during early life (birthweight, muscle depth, fat depth, postnatal growth rate, farm location and breed) and correlating these with subsequent fertility we will confirm the hypothesis that fetal programming of fertility is present in ruminant populations and explore the possible mechanisms that bring about these outcomes.