Reproductive functioning

Good reproductive functioning is of great importance in most farm animals; chickens need to lay eggs, cattle should calve every year and sows are kept for their piglet production. For most companion animals, good reproductive functioning is considered less important. The genetic improvement in e.g. milk production in cattle, litter size in pigs and growth rate in chickens has important consequences for the reproductive functioning of these animals. Reproductive functioning is also very much dependent on environmental factors, such as nutritional challenges, social stress and season.

Focus and approach

Most of the research in reproductive biology focuses on the pig, but we also study reproduction in cattle and chickens.

Good quality development of follicles/oocytes and of embryos/placentas is needed to increase the chance of good piglet vitality and a good life time performance of these piglets. We, therefore, study (nutritional) ways to optimize the development of follicles and embryos, also focusing on the relevant pathways and possible long term consequences.

We also study effects of changes in short term environmental conditions (including e.g. social conditions, lactation management) on e.g. endocrine regulation of reproductive processes, oestrous behaviour and embryo- and placental development.

The research is carried out at the animal research facilities in Wageningen (CARUS) and the Pig Innovation Centre in Sterksel.

Examples of current projects

  • Nutritional programming of pre-ovulatory follicles and consequences for piglet vitality
  • Dutch Roman; a group housing system for lactating sows
  • The parturition process and its consequences for early piglet survival and development
  • ‘Second litter syndrome’ in sows is a suboptimal farrowing rate and litter size in second parity sows