Reproduction and Physiology

Brain Regulation of Growth in Beef Calves

  • Lloyd L. Anderson (Iowa State University)


Small peptide hormones produced in the lower part of the brain (hypothalamus) regulate episodic and basal secretion of hormones from the anterior pituitary gland that affect metabolism and growth in cattle. This study focused on long-term growth in young calves subjected to hypophysectomy (HYPOX), hypophyseal stalk transection (HST), and sham operation control (SOC). Crossbred (Hereford x Aberdeen Angus) and Hereford, and Aberdeen Angus calves were HYPOX (n = 5), HST (n = 5), or SOC (n = 8) at 146 days of age, whereas another group was HST (n = 5) or SOC (n = 7) at 273 days of age. Body weight was determined every 21 days from birth to 1008 days of age. From day 146-1008, growth was arrested (P < 0.001) in HYPOX (0.06 kg/day) compared with SOC (0.50 kg/day) calves. Growth continued but at a significantly lower rate (P < 0.05) in calves HST at 146 days (0.32 kg/day) and 273 days (0.32 kg/day) compared with SOC (0.50 kg/day). Although episodic growth hormone (GH) secretion was abolished and peripheral blood serum GH concentration remained consistently lower in HST calves (2.4 ng/ml) than in the SOC (5.5 ng/ml; P < 0.01), the calves continued to grow throughout 1008 days. Peripheral serum thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) concentration was less (P < 0.05) in HST compared with SOC calves. There was an abrupt decrease (P < 0.001) in serum thyroxine (T4) (4-fold) and triiodothyronine (T3) (3-fold) concentration after surgery that remained to 360 days in HST compared with SOC calves. At sacrifice, pituitary gland weight was markedly reduced (P < 0.001) in HST (0.18 g/100 kg body weight) compared with SOC (0.55 g/100 kg body weight) calves. Histological examination of pituitary glands from HST calves indicated the persistence of secretory GH and TSH cells in the same areas of the anterior pituitary gland as SOC calves. Coronal sections of the gland revealed GH and TSH secreting cells in HST calves that were similar to the controls. These results indicate that long-term growth continues, but at a slower rate, after hypophyseal stalk transection of immature calves in spite of complete abolition of episodic GH secretion and consistently decreased basal secretion of GH, TSH, T4, and T3 compared with sham-operated animals. Growth was abolished after hypophysectomy of immature calves in which circulating GH and TSH was undetectable.

Keywords: ASL R1734

How to Cite:

Anderson, L. L., (2001) “Brain Regulation of Growth in Beef Calves”, Iowa State University Animal Industry Report 1(1).

Download pdf



Published on
01 Jan 2001
Peer Reviewed