Feb 6, 2014

Holsteins favor heifers, not bulls: biased milk production programmed during pregnancy as a function of fetal sex

PloS One
Katie HindeBarry J Bradford

Abstract

Mammalian females pay high energetic costs for reproduction, the greatest of which is imposed by lactation. The synthesis of milk requires, in part, the mobilization of bodily reserves to nourish developing young. Numerous hypotheses have been advanced to predict how mothers will differentially invest in sons and daughters, however few studies have addressed sex-biased milk synthesis. Here we leverage the dairy cow model to investigate such phenomena. Using 2.39 million lactation records from 1.49 million dairy cows, we demonstrate that the sex of the fetus influences the capacity of the mammary gland to synthesize milk during lactation. Cows favor daughters, producing significantly more milk for daughters than for sons across lactation. Using a sub-sample of this dataset (N = 113,750 subjects) we further demonstrate that the effects of fetal sex interact dynamically across parities, whereby the sex of the fetus being gestated can enhance or diminish the production of milk during an established lactation. Moreover the sex of the fetus gestated on the first parity has persistent consequences for milk synthesis on the subsequent parity. Specifically, gestation of a daughter on the first parity increases milk production by ∼ 445 k...Continue Reading

Mentioned in this Paper

Seminal Fluid
Biochemical Pathway
Structure of Calf of Leg
Growth Hormone Activity
Entire Fetus
Cattle for beef production
Placenta Specimen
Placenta Disorders
Mammary Gland
Ruminants

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