Effects of prolonged nutrient restriction on baseline and periprandial plasma ghrelin concentrations of postpubertal Holstein heifers

M. E. Field, S. E. Deaver, R. P. Rhoads, R. J. Collier, M. L. Rhoads

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3 Scopus citations


Objectives of this study were to measure both daily and periprandial plasma ghrelin concentrations of postpubertal Holstein heifers during prolonged undernutrition. Following an acclimation period, Holstein heifers [n = 10; 339.5 ± 8.6. kg of body weight (BW)] were fed ad libitum [well fed (WF); n = 5] or restricted to 50% of ad libitum intake [underfed (UF); n = 5) for 8. wk. Body condition scores (BCS) were recorded at the beginning and end of the treatment period, and weekly measurements of BW, plasma ghrelin, progesterone, and nonesterified fatty acids (NEFA) concentrations were obtained. Ovarian follicular and luteal structures were measured twice weekly via transrectal ultrasonography. Plasma ghrelin concentrations were also measured during a periprandial window bleed conducted at the end of the experiment. During the window bleed, samples were collected every 15. min between 0500 and 0900. h, with feed offered at 0700. h. Underfed heifers lost BW and BCS, whereas WF heifers gained weight and either increased or maintained BCS. Chronic underfeeding increased circulating ghrelin and NEFA concentrations. By wk 4 of the treatment period, circulating ghrelin concentrations of the UF heifers reached a plateau. Periprandial fluctuations in ghrelin concentrations were apparent as plasma ghrelin concentrations changed over time. Overall differences in periprandial plasma ghrelin concentrations were primarily due to prefeeding effects of plane of nutrition. Plasma ghrelin concentrations and change in BCS were negatively correlated such that heifers that lost the most BCS had the highest concentrations of circulating ghrelin. Two of the 5 UF heifers became anestrus by wk 3 of the treatment period. Despite being of similar age, the heifers that became anestrus had lower BW and plasma ghrelin concentrations than the UF heifers that continued to ovulate. In the current experiment, long-term undernutrition elicited ghrelin responses similar to those reported for shorter durations of nutrient restriction in cattle and other ruminants. These results demonstrate that plane of nutrition is a chronic regulator of plasma ghrelin concentrations, and that these concentrations can be experimentally manipulated in postpubertal heifers for up to 8. wk with no evidence of an adaptive response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6473-6479
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of dairy science
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2013



  • Dairy heifer
  • Ghrelin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics

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