April 13, 2015

(Dan) Hey folks, welcome to Doc Talk. We’re sure glad you joined us. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson from Kansas State University and today my guest is Dr. KC Olson, who is the Lewis Endowed Chair in Range Livestock Nutrition. We’re gonna talk about the buzz word and the term that’s going around-fetal programming. Stay tuned. Thanks for joining us. Enjoy the show.

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(Dan) Folks this is Dr. KC Olson. We’re tickled to death to have him come across the street. from Animal Sciences and spend some time with us today. Dr. Olson is the Lewis Endowed Chair of Range Livestock Nutrition here at Kansas State University and he does a lot of work around the state, around the country and around the world on range cattle nutrition. And today you know, fetal programming, we hear about it. It’s in all the magazines, it’s on… (KC) Just about every one you pick up. (Dan) …every one. Except for my church bulletin. But it might be there this Sunday. But what exactly is fetal programming? (KC) Fetal programming is the idea that if we nourish a pregnant female in a particular way that there will be unexpected benefits and performance of her eventual progeny. (Dan) OK. So, in other words manipulating the growth rate of the calf in utero. Things that we do at that point. (KC) That’s definitely part of it. We wouldn’t want to overstimulate in utero, obviously. And feed ourselves into a dystocia problem. That’s not necessarily possible. But the idea is that if we optimize nutrient flow across the placenta to that conceptus that eventually there will be benefits that pay out to that calf during calfhood and also during finishing in the case of a terminal animal, or lifetime productivity if that would happen to be a heifer. (Dan) OK. And we’ve talked a little bit, off camera, and during different meetings, when it comes out…when we looked at the NRC, or we look at our nutrient requirements of cattle in the first, second and third trimester. Is there a point in time that people are more targeting, or less targeting as far as the fetal programming, as far as those three trimesters, or are they all pretty much equivalent? (KC) To me what seems to be the most critical in the literature would be the first third of pregnancy and the last third of pregnancy. (Dan) OK. (KC) Now this term is new, fetal programming as a term is new, it’s kind of a buzzword. But it’s not a new idea. We have recognized for decades that if we treat that pregnant mother right, that we’re giving the calf advantages that in some cases you know we wouldn’t normally predict. I say it’s a buzz word. How many of you out in the audience heard the word proactive a decade ago? (Dan) Right. (KC) Proactive is another buzz word. I’m not sure if anybody can really define it, but it became part of popular culture and that’s what’s happened with the term fetal programming. (Dan) Yea, so when I look at it, you know fetal programming is another description of supplying proper nutrition at the right point in time while the dam is pregnant. (KC) Yes. And you know let’s be honest, what we know about this thing that we call fetal programming is actually very modest at this point. It’s based on a series of studies that came out of the University of Nebraska several years ago. And very simply dams in late pregnancy were fed to where body condition was adequate. One group received an energy based supplement, another group received a protein based supplement. Now, the progeny of those dams that were protein supplemented, they weaned a little bit heavier, they did a little bit better in the feed yard and they did a little bit better on the rail. OK. The increase in performance was small, but it was measurable and it was significant. And that’s really what we know. That study was the modern birth of what we call fetal programming. (Dan) Let me cut you off there, cause we gotta go to a commercial. (KC) Sure. (Dan) But when we come back, let’s pick up on that and let’s discuss a little bit more about how this evolved into what we now call fetal programming. (KC) Suits me. (Dan) Thanks for watching Doc Talk, we’ll be back in a minute.

(Dan) Folks, welcome back to Doc Talk. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson here with my friend and colleague, Dr. KC Olson, who is the Lewis Endowed Chair of Range Livestock Nutrition here at Kansas State University. And KC we were getting into a good discussion on the Nebraska Study. So, it showed that different levels of feeding to the dam, the offspring wound up having better performance, better carcass qualities, things to that nature. (KC) And it was less about level of nutrition than it was about the identity, the nutrient identity of what was in that supplement. One supplement was energy based, one supplement was protein based. Both sets of dams had adequate body condition, but the results were different. The dams that had a little bit of an advantage on the protein side had calves that were healthier and that grew more. (Dan) So, when we start to think about this and I’m assuming the ones that had the protein supplement were not in a negative energy balance, they were also you know had an energy supply that was adequate to get them through the gestation and the winter. So it really gets back to potentially that fetal protein, or the fetal programming is really more about proper and adequate protein supplementation. (KC) Yes. I mean the phrase, the buzz word suggests that if the calf has a computer chip and we can program this one now. That doesn’t work. But there is obviously an advantage, a performance advantage for the protein supplement of the dams progeny, relative to the energy supplement of dams progeny. Now in the Nebraska Study, both groups of cows had adequate body conditioning. There was to my recollection, no advantage one way or the other. Protein in particular though, seems to do something special for the fetus. OK. And we had to give it a name – fetal programming was that name. Since the advent of those studies there’s been a tremendous amount of monetary resources, human resources, put to the question of what is fetal programming? And how can we influence by maternal nutrition, performance of that off spring? I’m not sure where that is gonna get us. (Dan) OK. So, when I start to think about protein and some of the products that we have out there. You know, there’s a lot of people using distillers. There’s people using by products, using urea tub based, lick blocks, different things to that nature. Is there anything out there that says there’s one protein source better than another? Or one that a person, you know, that we’re looking at on… in terms of the fetus? (KC) Well, in my judgment, no. Protein is protein. Where, you know, this notion of fetal programming is concerned. I mean what it looks like to me if you look at the 30,000 foot picture is just flat good management. We’ve known for decades that protein in late pregnancy is critical. (Dan) Right. Well, let’s take a break. When we come back, let’s jump back into some of this, late term pregnancy and gestational nutrition, something I know you are passionate about. Something that a lot of viewers are passionate about. When we come back, more with Dr. KC Olson. You’re watching Doc Talk, we’ll be back in a minute.

(Dan) Folks, welcome back to Doc Talk. Dr. Dan Thomson here with Dr. KC Olson. We’re here at Kansas State University where Dr. Olson serves as the Lewis Endowed Chair of Range Livestock Nutrition and when we left for break, you said something that kind of caught my attention and I think probably a lot of people on the show. But fetal programming is nothing more than the best management of our pregnant cows or best management practices. (KC) I may be a little biased, but I believe that that’s true. I think one of my closing comments in the last segment was that we have known that protein nutrition of the dam in late pregnancy in particular was critical. It’s critical with success of the dame, critical for success of the offspring. Now, we have many options for supplement choices. For cows going into the winter months, that period of poor quality forage. Regardless of the means that we choose to deliver that protein, we get immediate benefits to the dam. OK. In one respect when protein nutrition is adequate, intake of that low quality forage increases. In some circumstances, it can very nearly double. In the second circumstance, protein will actually increase energy availability from that low quality forage. (Dan) Right. (KC) It’s not uncommon to see a 50 percent increase in digestibility of low quality forages, when an adequate amount of protein is supplied. OK, that research was done here largely at Kansas State in the 18, sorry, the 1980s and 1990s. It’s a well known and widely practiced management option here in Kansas. What we were unaware of at the time, is that you know, there may be some additional benefits of maternal protein supplementation that then pay out to the calf later in life. This was something that our colleagues at the University of Nebraska pointed out and that animal husbandry community has just kind of gone after whole hog. They’ve latched on to the term fetal programming, everybody wants to do it. Here’s the issue. I don’t think it changes fundamentally the best management practices that we’ve been using for the last quarter century. (Dan) Yea, in other words it may be fetal deprogramming has been more of an issue of people trying to skimp here or cut a corner management wise on getting protein out to the cows. And what we’re really finding out is that hey, if you do what you’re supposed to do, these cattle turn out pretty good. (KC) That’s right. The thing to keep in mind is that there is no computer chip in that calf or that dam. There is no programming that occurs as we know it. What happens though is that manager develops an eye to evaluate cow condition or maybe keeps records that involve cow body condition. That’s still the best indication that that cow is in nutritional status adequate to bring that calf into the world, and allow it to suckle. (Dan) Cool. Well, we’re gonna take a break. When we come back, more with Dr. Olson. And we’ll wrap up kind of our take on fetal programming, fetal deprogramming, proper management of those cows to get a good calf on the ground and good growth rates of that calf while it’s on your ranch. Thanks for watching Doc Talk. We’ll be back right after these messages.

(Dan) Hey folks, welcome back to Doc Talk. Dr. Dan Thomson here with Dr. KC Olson and it’s always a pleasure to have Dr. Olson on here because when we start to think about beef cattle production and profitability, I don’t think you can start looking at much besides buying the animal and feeding the animal. Those are the two biggies, at least in the feedyard and on the ranch side. But Dr. Olson is the Lewis Endowed Chair of Range Livestock Nutrition and give us kind of the summary. We need to hear it every year, but going into that last third of gestation, what are we looking for? (KC) OK, managers you can have fetal programming. And you’re gonna get it by conforming to what you already know as best management practice. A majority of fetal growth, maybe as much as 60 percent is going to occur during the last 60 days of gestation. OK, when you’re managing that pregnant female, you’ve gotta allow your diet to change its character. Either in amount that you offer, or in the nutrient density of that diet. You’ve got to support the cow, you’ve gotta support that rapid logarithmic fetal growth, the last 60 days of pregnancy. Because if that dam calves in adequate body condition, she’ll be able to bring that baby into the world, she’ll be able to support herself through peak lactation and she’ll be most capable of rebreeding 90 days later, 90 days after calving. You’re helping her be all she can be from a genetic standpoint, just with that short term nutritional support. And protein supplementation should be a part of it. (Dan) Yep and I think that’s the key is that understanding that even though we put… we reinvent the wheel constantly throughout… (KC) Yes we do. (Dan) …nutrition, veterinary medicine you know, a lot of times I say it’s different people and different cattle going through the same problems. (KC) Cynical, but true. (Dan) Well, that’s me. But you know, rebreeding, body condition score, do you have any rule of thumb where you want those cows at, at the time of calving? (KC) OK if a mature cow can be a condition five on a one to nine scale, that’s where I need her. I like to give heifers and second calf…first calf heifers and second calf heifers a little bit more of an advantage, if I can allow them to calve in a BCS of six, I like to do it that way. (Dan) Cool. Well I think that, you know good nutrition, good management, being a good producer, animal husbandry all ties in. (KC) It does. (Dan) Thanks for being here today. Thanks for spending time with us. (KC) Thank you. (Dan) Folks, Dr. KC Olson, here at Kansas State’s Department of Animal Science and Industries. He is the Lewis Endowed Chair of Range Livestock Nutrition. I want to say thank you very much for joining us today. It’s been a great show. It’s been a lot of fun spending time with Dr. Olson. Be sure to work with your local veterinarian, or with your local nutritionist. If you want to know more about what we do here at Kansas State University you can find us on the web at www.vet.ksu.edu. Thanks for watching Doc Talk. I appreciate you joining us here on the show. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson and I’ll see you down the road.

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