A University of California-Davis study recently found that feeding gossypol, a derivative of the cottonseed plant, can negatively impact embryo development in virgin heifers.

The study randomly assigned 50 postpubertal heifers to one of three diets which differed in dietary free gossypol (FG) content:

  • Control diet: 0 mg of FG/kg of BW
  • Moderate diet: 17.8 mg of FG/kg of BW
  • High diet: 36.8 mg of FG/kg of BW

Heifers were fed treatment diets for 70 days before superovulation and embryo collection. Heifers were flushed five days after induction of ovulation.

Researchers found that the higher gossypol concentrations increased the number of low-quality embryos produced. Embryos collected from heifers in the high diet had the fewest number of live cells and had cells of smaller diameter. Higher dietary gossypol compromised in vitro development and increased the number of degenerated embryos.

Researchers concluded that compromised early embryo development might explain the negative effects on the fertility of dairy cows fed diets high in gossypol. To read more, click here.