Fatty acid composition of selected dietary fat sources. 1Commercial preparations considered partially inert in the rumen; 2Also contain 14% C20:5 and 9% C22:6 (Thatcher & Staples, 2007).
Different types of fats have been utilized in an attempt to improve reproductive function in ruminant animals. Fatty acids derived from plants and oil seeds have exerted a major impact on reproductive performance, some of the most common sources include sunflower, linseed, cottonseed, rapeseed and soyabean. Animal fat (tallow) and calcium salts of saturated fatty acids may escape in a significant percentage rumen hydrogenation to be incorporated into adipose tissue and milk. Fish by-products contain a high proportion of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and pass without being altered in the rumen exerting no effects on rumen fermentation. Each dietary source of fat varies regarding composition of specific fatty acids (Table 1).
Early studies of the effect of fat in the ration on reproductive performance were carried out by Burr & Burr (1930), who observed that fat deficiency in the ration of growing rats induced alterations in ovulation rate and on the onset of oestrus, while lipid supplementation reestablished reproductive performance of the females, coining the concept of essential fatty acids. In later studies, research was aimed at evaluating the effect of fat supplementation in different animal species both ruminant and non-ruminant, on reproductive aspects such as the establishment of puberty (Smith et al., 1989), semen production (Castellano et al., 2010), maternal recognition of pregnancy (Abayasekara & Wathes, 1999, Filley et al., 2000, Lopes et al., 2009) by means of the suppression of luteolytic signals (Mattos et al., 2000), restart of ovarian activity after parturition (de Fries et al., 1998), follicle development, quality of oocytes (Staples & Thatcher, 2005; Bilby et al., 2006c), and of the embryo (Cerri et al., 2009), modification in the mechanism of synthesis and secretion of hormones involved in reproductive processes (Staples et al., 1998) and on production aspects such as quality of milk (Rego et al., 2004; Bernal et al., 2010) or meat (Wood et al., 2003). Due to the fact that some fatty acids (FA) are essential for mammals and to the role of fatty acids on reproductive processes, it is possible that cattle reproduction will be influenced more by the type of lipids consumed than for the total lipid intake. This is particularly important since ruminants hydrogenate PUFAs in the rumen, limiting the amount of PUFAs that are absorbed from the small intestine (Thatcher & Staples, 2007, Santos et al., 2008, Doreau et al., 2011). However, it is possible that some specific PUFAs may pass intact the reticulo-rumen and be absorbed from the small intestine, allowing in this way the improvement of reproductive efficiency directly on the target tissue of the reproductive system of the female (autocrine or paracrine) or by an indirect effect mediated by the endocrine system (Staples & Thatcher, 2005).
|Fat source||Fatty acid|
|Energy Booster 1001||3||40||1||41||10||2||<1|
|Menhaden fish oil2||7||16||8||3||12||1||2|
Several studies have shown that PUFAs of the ω-3 family such as eicosapentaenoic acid (C20:5, ω-3) and docosahexaenoic acid (C22:6, ω-3) suffer insignificant biohydrogenation in the rumen (Thatcher & Staples, 2007). These fatty acids are usually found in feedstuffs derived from fish (and other marine products), such as the oil and the meal which are considered non essential since they can be synthesized from linoleic acid (ω-3), and apparently play an important role in animal performance (Thatcher & Staples, 2007). Furthermore, lipid supplements partially resistant to biohydrogenation in the rumen have been developed such as calcium salts of long chain fatty acids (Ca-LCFA) with the aim of increasing the amount of unsaturated FA which can be absorbed by limiting biohydrogenation (Mattos et al., 2000). PUFAs act as mediators in a series of processes in several reproductive tissues, including fluidity of cell membrane, intracellular signaling and susceptibility to oxidative damage (Wathes et al., 2007). Changes in chain length, degree of unsaturation and position of the double bonds in the acil chain of fatty acids may have a major impact on reproductive function and play a role in livestock reproduction (Mattos et al., 2000). Potential mechanisms may include increment of energy density of the ration (Ferguson et al., 1990), even when for some workers (Williams & Amstalden, 2010), the effect of fat supplementation on reproduction is independent of the energy density of ration or of changes in live weight of animals. Considering all the above described, the aim of this review is to examine some of the reproductive processes in the bovine and ovine females which could be regulated or modified by the inclusion of lipids in the ration.
2. Effect of lipid supplementation on pregnancy rate
Incorporation of lipids in rations for dairy cattle usually increases energy density of ration and improves lactation and reproductive performance (Funston, 2004). However, when they are supplied in early lactation, frequently there is a reduction in feed intake due to a reduction in dry matter digestibility and to an increase in energy of greater availability, so when lipids are supplied in the early postpartum period, there is little alteration in the energy status of the animal even when a higher energy density ration is consumed (Santos et al., 2008).
Then, if dietary fat does not alter the energy status of dairy cows, reproductive response results more from the supply of some fatty acids, than from the effect of the energy supply
There are several studies that report a better reproductive performance in cows fed supplementary lipids. In this respect, Staples et al. (1998), showed that lipid consumption exerted a positive effect on reproductive aspects in dairy cows (Table 2). In beef cattle, the same trend has been observed. It is in this context that, de Fries et al. (1998) reported that Brahman cows consuming 5.2% lipids in the ration showed a trend towards an increase in pregnancy rate than those cows which consumed only 3.7% lipids in the ration. Ferguson et al. (1990) observed a 2.2 times increase in the possibility of pregnancy in lactating cows consuming 0.5 kg lipids per day. In another study, it was demonstrated that grazing cows supplemented with fat, pregnancy rate at first service was 16% higher than in cows which did not receive fat in the ration (Bader et al., 2000).
Bellows et al., (2001) observed that supplementation with safflower seed, soyabeans, or sunflower seed (4.7, 3.8 and 5.1% fat in the ration, respectively) for the last 65 days before calving increased subsequent pregnancy rates (94%, 90% and 91%, respectively) of first-calf beef heifers compared with the control (79 %) that received only 2.4 % fat in the ration. In another study Bellows et al., (2001), using good quality forage and a higher amount of fat in the ration (6.5%) during 68 days before calving, was unable to improve pregnancy rates relative to a control ration (2.2% fat), this result indicates that when adequate nutrients are available, the effect of supplemental fat may be masked.
Grazing Holstein cows which were supplemented for 103 days, as from day 10 post-partum, with two sources of bypass fat Megalac plus 3% (MP; 0.4 kg/day, containing Ca salts of palm fatty acids and Ca salts of methionine hydroxy analogue) and Megapro Gold (MPG; 1.5 kg/day, containing Ca salt of palm fatty acids, extracted rapeseed meal and whey permeate), MPG increased (
|Fergunson et al., 1990||Ca-Palm oil||2.0 %||591|
|Sklan et al.,1991||Ca-Palm oil||2.6 %||82|
|Scott et al., 1995||Ca-Palm oil||1 lb d-1||98|
|Garcia-Bojalil et al., 1998||Ca-Palm oil||2.2 %||86|
|Son et al., 1996||Tallow||3 %||62|
|Espinoza et al., 2010||Tallow||9.5%||Herd A 70; Herd B 55%|
|Frajblat and Butler, 2003||Energy Booster||1.7 %||86|
|Petit et al., 2001||Flaxseed||17%||87|
|Ambrose et al., 2006ª||Flaxseed||9%||481|
|Ambrose et al., 2006b||Flaxseed||9%||261|
|Fuentes et al., 2007||Extruded Linseed||1.7 kgd-1||39|
|McNamara et al., 2003||MegaPro Gold||3.3 lb d-1||54|
|Juchem et al., 2004||Soy + Trans C18:1||1.5%||341|
|Aguilar-Pérez et al., 2009||ByFat ®||1.8%||33|
|Espinoza et al., 2010||Megalac®||9.6%||Herd A 80; Herd B 58%|
|Castañeda-Gutierrez et al., 2005||Ca-CLA||0.3 lb d-1||81|
|Bernal-Santos et al., 2003||Ca-CLA||0.3 lb d-1||42|
|Bruckental et al., 1989||Fish meal||7.3%||72|
|Armstrong et al., 1990||Fish meal||1.8 lb d-1||64|
|Carroll et al., 1994||Fish meal||3.5 %||89|
|Burke et al., 1997||Fish meal||2.8||41|
In another study, Aguilar-Pérez et al., (2009) observed that pregnancy rate of F1 (Holstein x Zebu) cows grazing under tropical conditions in Mexico, was not affected by supplementation with bypass fat (33.3%), relative to a control group (41.7%) at 90 days postpartum. In conclusion, fat supplementation increased conception rate to first service but did not significantly affect the proportion of cows pregnant at the end of the breeding season, these results suggest that the higher quality of the forage supplied in the different seasons that the trial lasted, may have been a factor that masked the effect of fat supplementation. Juchem et al. (2010) evaluated the effect of supplementation before and after parturition with Ca-LCFA of palm oil or with a mixture of linoleic and
In a review of previous studies in which conjugated linoleic acids (CLA) were supplemented to dairy cows during early lactation, de Veth et al. (2009) demonstrated that the probability of pregnancy increases in 26% when CLA are increased in the ration and that the optimum CLA amount is 10.0 g d-1, after which the beneficial effects are reduced. It is possible that the positive effect of lipid supplementation may be due to specific fatty acids (Staples & Thatcher, 2005), and the absorption of unsaturated FA in ruminants is limited due microbial biohydrogenation in the rumen (Lopes et al., 2009). Some studies have evaluated the possibility that unsaturated FA intake, particularly those of the
In other studies, no response was observed with linseed (Fuentes et al., 2008). Similarly, feeding
3. Effect of lipid supplementation on the hypothalamus-hypophysis-ovary axis
The major objective of cow-calf enterprises is to produce one calf per cow annually. Thus, management strategies that enhance reproductive performance of milk and beef cows are beneficial to the productivity of cow-calf operations. Previous studies reported that utilization of dietary fat as a nutraceutical, particularly PUFAs, positively influenced reproductive function in both milk and beef cows (Williams & Stanko, 2000). Furthermore, these positive effects were independent of the additional energy contribution from the PUFAs sources (Funston, 2004). Different mechanisms have been proposed by means of which fat supplementation may affect functioning of the hypothalamus-hypophysis-ovary axis. Early work in this respect suggested that fat supplementation may affect secretion of reproductive and metabolic hormones and further research demonstrated that fat addition to the ration modified ovarian activity in heifers and adult cows postpartum.
The mechanism (or mechanisms) by which dietary fat improves reproductive performance has not been elucidated. Several hypotheses have been proposed: 1) an amelioration of a negative energetic balance, thus leading to an earlier return to oestrus postpartum and, therefore, improved fertility; 2) an increase in steroidogenesis favorable to improved fertility; 3) manipulation of insulin so as to stimulate ovarian follicle development; and 4) a stimulation or inhibition of the production and release of PGF2α, which influences the persistence of the corpus luteum (Staples et al., 1998)
3.1. Hormonal secretion and lipid metabolites
Some studies showed that dietary fat supplementation in dairy heifers increased circulating concentrations of progesterone (Talavera et al., 1985), and enhanced lifespan of induced corpus luteum during early postpartum in beef cows (Williams, 1989; Ryan et al., 1995). Other studies suggest that when lipids are included in the ration of cows to increase energy density, caloric balance is improved which directly influences hypophysis-gonadal activity postpartum (Harrison et al., 1995), increasing, in principle, the amplitude and frequency of secretion of luteinizing hormone (LH) in animals (Sklan et al., 1994). In this respect, de Luna et al. (1982), reported an increase in the secretion of luteinizing hormone in ovariectomized cows treated with GnRH and supplemented with beef tallow. In sheep, secretion of luteinizing hormone in response to the injection of GnRH at day 10 of the oestrus cycle was greater in Pelibuey sheep supplemented with Ca-LCFA from palm oil during 30 days than in the control group (Espinoza et al., 1997).
Other studies, using isocaloric and isonitrogenous diets in cows of poor body condition indicated that the increase in dietary fat consumption augmented the number of follicles of medium-size by 1.5- to 5-fold within 3 to 7 weeks and these changes occurred coincident with changes in serum insulin, growth hormone and intraovarian insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) (Wehrman et al., 1991; Ryan et al., 1992; Thomas et al., 1997). Table 3 summarizes the effects of dietary fat supplementation on follicular physiology and growth as observed in different studies.
|Wehrman et al., 1991; Ryan et al., 1992; Hightshoe et al., 1991; Lucy et al., 1991; Thomas & Williams, 1996; Thomas et al., 1997; Lammoglia et al., 1996; Stanko et al., 1997; de Fries et al., 1998||Increased number of medium-sized follicles (polyunsaturated fat "/ saturated and highly polyunsaturated fat effects)|
|Lucy et al., 1989, 1991
||Milk cows supplemented with Ca-LCFA palm oil, the basal level of LH was increase|
|Wehrman et al., 1991; Ryan et al., 1992||Increased granullosa cell progesterone production in vitro, increased follicular fluid progesterone|
|Lopes et al., 2009, Salas-Razo et al., 2011||Cows supplemented with rumen inert polyunsaturated fat had greater mean serum progesterone concentrations compared with control|
|Ryan et al., 1992; Thomas & Williams, 1996||No effect on superovulation rate|
|de Fries et al., 1998; Bilby et al., 2006a; Garnsworthy et al., 2008||Increased number of large follicles; increased size of largest follicle|
On the other hand, it has been shown that hiperlipidic rations supplied both to dairy as well as to beef cows, induced and increase in the levels of blood cholesterol, as it was observed by Hightshoe et al. (1991) in cows supplemented postpartum with Ca-LCFA from palm oil. Similar results, were reported in Angus and Hereford cows which consumed a supplement which contained 125 g of Ca-LCFA from palm oil (Espinoza et al., 1995), in Chinampas (
While in sheep, concentration of progesterone in the follicular fluid was greater than in sheep which consumed the ration enriched with
3.2. Lipids on ovarian activity
These results suggest that another of the mechanisms by means dietary lipids may improve reproductive performance of cattle is influencing follicular development and ovulation. In this, respect, Lucy et al. (1991), replaced corn with Ca-LCFA from palm oil in the ration of dairy cows at calving, and increased the number of medium size follicles (6-9 mm) and of follicles greater than 15 mm within 25 days postpartum. Furthermore, the diameter of the greatest follicle was superior in cows fed Ca-LCFA from palm oil (18.2
The greatest increase in medium follicle populations occurred in response to plant oil consumption, which is likely a direct result of the effects of high levels of linoleic acid in the rumen. Maximum follicular growth responses to plant oil supplementation have occurred when plant oils were fed at 4 to 6% of dietary dry matter, with lesser increases observed at lower levels of added fat. Animal tallow, calcium salts of saturated fatty acids or fish oil have been shown to have less clear effects on follicular growth than plant-derived oils. Moreover, postpartum beef cows which calved in a very poor body condition (BCS of 3; 1-9 scale) were unable to develop medium or large follicles at a rate equal to those with a body condition score of 4 or greater after 3 weeks of fat consumption (Ryan et al., 1994).
The number of medium size follicles (5 to 10 mm) was higher in beef cows which consumed feed with a greater content of PUFAs (Thomas et al., 1997) and in dairy cows which consumed a diet enriched with 5%
4. Lipids and its effect on endometrial secretion of prostaglandins
Studies in a variety of species have shown that dietary PUFAs can modulate prostaglandin synthesis and metabolism. Eicosanoids, comprising prostaglandins, thromboxanes, leukotrienes and lipoxins, are all synthesized from C20 fatty acids (Mattos et al., 2000). The most biologically active two series prostaglandins are derived from arachidonic acid, but the less active three series prostaglandins can be produced from eicosapentaenoic acid by the action of the same enzymes (Robinson et al., 2002).
Prostaglandins play an important role in reestablishing oestrus cycles both immediately after parturition and thereafter until conception. Prostaglandin F2α (PGF2α) is responsible for uterine involution after parturition. The uterus releases PGF2α during each oestrus to regress each new corpus luteum if the cow is not pregnant and initiate a new oestrus cycle. During the period of corpus luteum regression, concentrations of PGF2α and progesterone are inversely related. If the cow does conceive, release of PGF2α from the uterus is prevented in order to preserve the corpus luteum and maintain pregnancy (Funston & Filley, 2002).
Linoleic acid is a substrate for the synthesis of PGF2α. Linoleic acid can be desaturated and elongated to arachidonic acid (C20:4,
Figure 1 shows the schematic metabolic pathway of dietary n-6 and n-3 PUFAs and potential mechanisms for regulation of PGF2α secretion. Absorbed PUFAs are desaturated and elongated in organs such as the mammary gland, adipose tissue, testis, brain, placenta and the liver (of non-ruminants). Dietary PUFAs and their desaturation and elongation products are incorporated into phospholipids of the plasma membrane. The amount of each fatty acid incorporated depends on the amount of precursor present in the diet. External stimuli such as the binding of oxytocin (OT) to the oxytocin receptor (OTr) stimulates the activity of phospholipase A2 (PLA2) and phospholipase C (PLC), which cleave phospholipids from the plasma membrane and ultimately increase availability of diacylglycerol (DAG) and fatty acids for processing by prostaglandin H synthetase (PGHS). Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA; C20:5, n-3) is processed by PGHS to generate prostaglandins of the 3 series. Arachidonic acid (AA; C20:4
embryonic losses in cattle occur during days 8-16 after artificial insemination (Sreenan et al., 2001), which leads to believe that some embryos may not reach the appropriate size at that moment to inhibit synthesis of PGF2α for luteolysis to occur (Thatcher et al., 1994), showing the inability to inhibit luteolytic action by PGF2α during the critical period of maternal recognition of pregnancy (Childs et al., 2008a). In this context, inhibition of the synthesis of PGF2α could increase the rates of embryo survival and pregnancy (Binelli et al., 2001). PUFAs (
Fish meal has relatively high concentrations of eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids, in such a way that their incorporation in the ration of cattle may reduce the synthesis of PGF2α and delay regression of the corpus luteum, improving embryo survival and herd fertility (Staples et al., 1998)
Previous studies showed that the infusion of a fat source rich in linoleic acid (17%) into the abomasum of lactating dairy cows resulted in a significant reduction in the release of PGFM, as measured in peripheral plasma, in response to an injection of oxytocin on day 15 of a synchronized oestrous cycle (Oldick et al., 1997). These results indicate that high concentrations of PUFAs in the diet can decrease endometrial secretion of prostaglandins.
In this respect, in cows, fed with
There is evidence that during the prepartum period, lipid supplementation with 30% fatty acids as linoleic acid (
Childs et al. (2008b) fed heifers with a diet rich in
However, recent studies (Meier et al., 2009) showed that the bovine endometrial and trophoblastic tissues during short-term culture, incubated in a media supplemented with fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic (20:5-3; EPA), docosahexaenoic acids (22:6-3; DHA) or linoleic acids (C18:2-6; LIN), the release of PGE2 from ‘pregnant’ endometrium was higher (P=0.094) than from ‘non-pregnant’ endometrium, while PGF2α concentrations were similar. Treatment with fatty acids had no effect on PGF2α or PGE2 release from either pregnant or non-pregnant endometrium. The individual fatty acid treatments had no effect on the ratio of PGF2α to PGE2 from trophoblast tissues, but when the data from the three fatty acid treatments were combined (EPA, DHA and LIN treatment groups) the ratio of PGF2α to PGE2 was reduced (
On other hand, the dynamics of bovine corpus luteum regression in response to exogenous PGF2α can also be altered by dietary fish meal. In this respect, Burke et al., (1997) fed cows (
5. Lipids their effect on embryo development
Establishment of pregnancy in the ruminant requires the ovulation of a competent oocyte, of insemination at the appropriate time and of a correct pattern of secretion of oestradiol and progesterone during the follicular and luteal phase of oestrus. The embryo must develop in an appropriate way and avoid luteolysis producing enough interferon τ which stimulates the expression of genes in the endometrium to inhibit the synthesis of oxytocin receptors and consequently final production of PGF2α, allowing the establishment of a corpus luteum (Bott et al., 2010). In dairy cows there is a significant loss of embryos during this period, it is considered that only 40% of cows remain pregnant at day 28 after artificial insemination (Santos et al., 2008). There is evidence that such events can be influenced by PUFAs consumed in the ration (Wathes et al., 2007). Fatty acids play an important role in the modification of the biophysical properties and in the activity of biological membranes, including fluidity and cell proliferation (Bilby et al., 2006d). The competence and quality of the ovocyte and of the embryo are related to the type of fatty acid, specifically, with the content of particular fatty acids en the phospholipids of cell membrane which play a role in development and during and after fertilization (Santos et al., 2008).
The amount of lipids in the ovocyte of ruminants is about 76 ng approximately and has around 58% triglycerides, 20% phospholipids, 20% cholesterol and 10% free fatty acids (McEvoy et al., 2000). Fatty acids found in greater amounts in the phospholipid fraction of the membrane of cattle ovocyte are palmitic (16:0) and oleic (18:1) acids. PUFAs represent less than 20% of the total, being linoleic acid the most abundant of them (Santos et al., 2008). Marei et al. (2010) pointed out that linoleic acid (
Ratio of saturated fatty acids to PUFA in granulose cells (Adamiak et al., 2005) and in the ovocyte (Wonnacott et al., 2010) is greater than in plasma. This suggests the presence of a mechanism of selective uptake in the ovarian follicles or
|Fatty acid group||Plasma (µg/ml)||Granulosa cell (µg/pellet)||Oocytes
|Dietary treatment ab|
|Monounsaturated fatty acids||21.5||18.0||20.9||23.9||7.8||12.9|
|Polyunsaturated fatty acids||37.8||31.4||28.9||28.2||13.0||12.9|
cryopreservation and its capacity for further development (Wathes et al., 2007). From the
In sheep, Zeron et al. (2002) showed that supplementation with Ca-LCFA from fish oil during 13 weeks, resulted in better quality ovocytes and better integrity of their membrane, compared to that of sheep which were not fed lipid supplements (74.3% and 57.0%, respectively), which increased the ratio of long chain fatty acids in plasma of cells from the cumulus, although these changes were not observed in the ovocytes, suggesting selective uptake by the ovocyte or a highly regulated uptake, which could limit potential impact of cow nutrition on the proportion of fatty acids in their gametes. While in beef cattle, Fouladi-Nashta et al. (2007) fed cows with 200 or 800 g per day of Ca-LCFA from palm oil, which resulted in a greater percentage of ovum which developed up to the blastocyst stage and had a greater amount of cells due to an increment in the number of cells of the trophectoderm. By influencing the molecular mechanisms which control nucleus maturation of the ovocyte,
When a group of lactating superovulated cows were fed with rich sources of saturated fatty acids (
In hair ewes, Herrera et al. (2008) showed that PUFAs in the ration increased superovulatory response, registering increased (P<0.05) numbers of corpus luteum (14.73±1.87
On the contrary, Childs et al. (2008b) fed cows with a ration enriched with
Data reviewed shows that supplementation with different sources of lipids and fatty acids improve reproductive performance of the female ruminant. However, it is important to consider that the optimum response will be achieved when undernutrition status of the female is not extremely sever. A nutrient balance (protein:energy) in the ration consumed by the animal is fundamental to obtain maximum benefit from supplementation with fat, since fatty acids do not supply nitrogen for amino acid synthesis and consequently for the correct functioning of the hypothalamus-hypophysis axis. Improvements in reproductive performance may be a result of increased energy density of the ration or of the direct effects of specific fatty acids on reproductive processes. As is the case for any technology or management strategy that improves specific aspects of ovarian physiology and cyclic activity, actual improvements in pregnancy rate or total weight of calf weaned are dependent on a variety of management practices and environmental conditions. Until these interrelationships are better understood, livestock producers are recommended to attempt to formulate low cost/balanced rations. If a source of supplemental fat is available locally
|Mean (± SEM) distribution of fatty acids (%, w/w)a|
|Name||Formula||Cattle (n = 3)b||Sheep (n = 2)|
|Lauric||12:0||0.23 ± 0.15||nd|
|Myristic||14:0||2.48 ± 1.02||0.39±0.032|
|32.0 ± 1.64
2.24 ± 0.45
|Heptadecanoic||17:0||0.76 ± 0.14||0.41±0.407|
0.75 ± 0.16
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