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Long Chain Fatty Acids of Diet as Factors Influencing Reproduction in Cattle


  • Conflict of interest: All authors declare no conflict of interests.

Author’s address (for correspondence): JEP Santos, LE ‘s‘sRed’s’s Lasson Building, Department of Animal Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, 32611 USA. E-mail:


Cattle are fed moderate amounts of long chain fatty acids (FA) with the objective to enhance lactation and growth; however, recent interest on lipid feeding to cows has focused on reproduction, immunity and health. Increasing the caloric density of the ration by fat feeding has generally improved measures of cow reproduction, but when milk yield and body weight losses were increased by fat supplementation, positive effects on reproduction were not always observed. Feeding fat has influenced reproduction by altering the size of the dominant follicle, hastening the interval to first postpartum ovulation in beef cows, increasing progesterone concentrations during the luteal phase of the oestrous cycle, modulating uterine prostaglandin (PG) synthesis, and improving oocyte and embryo quality and developmental competence. Some of these effects were altered by the type of FA fed. The polyunsaturated FA of the n-6 and n-3 families seem to have the most remarkable effects on reproductive responses of cattle, but it is not completely clear whether these effects are mediated only by them or by other potential intermediates produced during rumen biohydrogenation. Generally, feeding fat sources rich in n-6 FA during late gestation and early lactation enhanced follicle growth, uterine PG secretion, embryo quality and pregnancy in cows. Similarly, feeding n-3 FA during lactation suppressed uterine PG release, and improved embryo quality and maintenance of pregnancy. Future research ought to focus on methods to improve the delivery of specific FA and adequately powered studies should be designed to critically evaluate their effects on establishment and maintenance of pregnancy in cattle.