Date of Completion

Winter 12-8-2022

Thesis Advisor(s)

Sarah Reed; Steven Zinn

Honors Major

Animal Science


Maternal nutrition is the diet that a mother intakes from before pregnancy through the end of lactation (Martin, 2018). Pregnant ruminants that are raised in pastures are frequently subject to undernutrition due to changes in the quantity and quality of available forage, which results in detrimental effects on the development of muscle and adipose tissues of offspring that can persist into adulthood (Hoffman, 2014). The quality of animal feed varies due to weather changes and climate fluctuations. Sheep usually gestate during the winter, as they are short-day breeders, and during this time, the forage consumed is limited and usually of poor quality (Martin, 2018). Ruminants are also commonly overfed during gestation due to differing livestock management practices, all of which are implemented to improve production efficiency. Some management systems feed excess nutrients during the winter months in an attempt to combat the decrease in forage quality, which can lead to over-conditioning of ewes. One common method in the sheep industry, flushing, is when mothers are fed increased total dietary nutrients for a period of time before and after breeding to increase ovulation (Hoffman, 2014). Undernutrition and overnutrition during gestation can alter the body condition of ewes, which consequently alters their offspring. Poor maternal nutrition during gestation in ewes has significant effects on the processes of fetal growth and development, specifically adipogenesis and myogenesis in offspring. The severity of these effects on offspring depends on when changes in diet occur during gestation, as well as the duration that the mother consumes the diet (Smith et al., 2021).