Our many current environmental challenges, including worldwide abnormal weather, global warming, and pollution, necessitate a new and innovative strategy for animal production for the next generation. This strategy should incorporate not only higher-efficiency production, but also advanced biological concepts and multi-functional agricultural techniques, into environmentally friendly systems. Recent research has discovered a unique phenomenon referred to as 'foetal and neonatal programming', which is based on 'the developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD)' concept. These studies have shown that alterations in foetal and early postnatal nutrition and endocrine status may result in developmental adaptations that permanently change the structure, physiology and metabolism of affected animals during adult life. Ruminants fill an important ecological niche that capitalises on the symbiotic relationship between fibre-fermenting ruminal microbes and the mammalian demand for usable nutrients. The timing of the perturbation in maternal nutrient availability plays an important role in determining the effect that the foetal and neonatal programming will have on the developing placenta or foetus and offspring performance. Developmental programming through nutritional manipulations may help the ruminant, as an effective grass-protein converter, fulfil its production potential.
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