Ultrasonographic measurements in first trimester concepti identify predictors of birth weight and postnatal development in cattle.
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The placenta is a major driver of prenatal growth and involved in programming of postnatal performance. We therefore determined placental and embryo-fetal ultrasonographic parameters in early pregnancy and their relationships with birth weight and postnatal weights in a Bos indicus-Bos taurus composite beef cattle population. Pregnancies were generated in 2-yr-old Droughtmaster heifers by artificial insemination after estrus synchronization in 2 consecutive years (2009, n = 36 and 2010, n = 57), with a subset of 2010 heifers used again as lactating 3-yr-old cows in 2011 (n = 24). Each cohort was managed as 1 contemporary group for measurements of Corpus luteum diameter, amnion length and width, placentome width and thickness, and embryo-fetal crown-rump length, at 7 and 8 wk of gestation. This was followed by recordings of birth weight, branding weight at 5 to 6 mo of age and weaning weight 2 mo later. At a significance threshold of P < 0.05, placentome thickness at week 7 was negatively correlated with weights at birth (r = -0.23), branding (r = -0.25), and weaning (r = -0.35), whereas placentome width at week 7 (r = 0.24) and thickness at week 8 (r = 0.29) were positively correlated with birth weight. Thicker placentomes in males at week 7 (7%) difference mirrored sex differences in weights at birth (7%), branding (10%), and weaning (6%). The sex difference trend for birth weight was not consistent across sire-year combinations, ranging from -3.2 to +4.7 kg (birth weight of males - females per sire). These results support the hypothesis that placental parameters at the transition from embryo to fetal stage are major predictors of fetal and postnatal growth, albeit with significant environmentally induced plasticity, in stabilized B. indicus-B. taurus composite populations, and suggest that elements of B. indicus-B. taurus reciprocal differences in birth weight persist in composite populations.
author list (cited authors)
Burns, B. M., Hiendleder, S., Laing, A. R., Fordyce, G., & Herring, A. D.