The influence of relative maternal undernutrition on growth, endocrinology, and metabolic status in the adolescent ewe and her fetus were investigated at Days 90 and 130 of gestation. Singleton pregnancies to a single sire were established, and thereafter ewes were offered an optimal control (C; n = 14) or low (L [0.7 × C]; n = 21) dietary intake. Seven ewes receiving the L intake were switched to the C intake on Day 90 of gestation (L-C). At Day 90, live weight and adiposity score were reduced (P < 0.001) in L versus C dams. Plasma insulin and IGF1 concentrations were decreased (P < 0.02), whereas glucose concentrations were preserved in L relative to C intake dams. Fetal and placental mass was independent of maternal nutrition at this stage. By Day 130 of gestation, when compared to C and L-C dams, maternal adiposity was further depleted in L intake dams; concentrations of insulin, IGF1, and glucose were reduced; and nonesterified fatty acids increased. At Day 130, placental mass remained independent of maternal nutrition, but body weight was reduced (P < 0.01) in L compared with C fetuses (3555 g vs. 4273 g). Body weight was intermediate (3836 g) in L-C fetuses. Plasma glucose (P < 0.03), insulin (P < 0.07), and total liver glycogen content (P < 0.04) were attenuated in L fetuses. Fetal carcass analyses revealed absolute reductions (P < 0.05) in dry matter, crude protein, and fat, and a relative (g/kg) increase in carcass ash (P < 0.01) in L compared with C fetuses. Thus, limiting maternal intake during adolescent pregnancy gradually depleted maternal body reserves, impaired fetal nutrient supply, and slowed fetal soft tissue growth.
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Vol. 77 • No. 2