Effect of maternal diet on ovarian development in potential replacement ewe lambs

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2006: $10,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Grant Recipient: North Dakota State University
Region: North Central
State: North Dakota
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Joel Caton
North Dakota State University
Faculty Advisor:
Anna Grazul-Bilska
North Dakota State University
Kimberly Vonnahme
North Dakota State University


  • Animals: sheep


  • Animal Production: feed additives, livestock breeding


    It is known that maternal nutrition during pregnancy could have impacts on the reproductive success of the offspring.

    Our experiment was designed to determine if maternal consumption of differing levels of energy and selenium (Se) impacts fetal ovarian development.

    We determined that the numbers of follicles and proliferation of different cell types in the fetal ovary are impacted by maternal diet. Therefore, future studies in which ewe lambs are allowed to grow and are mated may have different success in attaining pregnancy.


    It has been clearly demonstrated that environmental factors, including nutrition can affect growth, development and physiology in the fetal and postnatal life of mammals. Both, undernutrition and overnutrition of pregnant ewes negatively affect fetal growth and development. In fact, cellular proliferation in fetal ovaries is regulated by numerous fetal and maternal factors including factors originating from maternal diet. It is interesting to think that the reproductive success of the offspring may be preset in the womb, prior to birth. We believe that the uterine environment may impact the female fetus so that she may be more reproductively capable later in life.

    Project objectives:

    We hypothesized that undernutrition and level of Se in maternal diet will affect cellular proliferation in fetal ovaries.

    Therefore, the objective of this experiment was to determine:
    1) if maternal dietary restriction and differing levels of Se in diet impacts cellular proliferation in fetal ovarian follicles, stromal tissue and blood vessels, and
    2) incidence of apoptosis and blood vessel distribution in fetal ovaries obtained from sheep in late pregnancy.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.