Sexual Differentiation and the Growth Process

  • J. Joe Ford
  • John Klindt


As adults, males are larger than females in most species with which we are familiar, but this generalization is not appropriate for all species (Ralls, 1976). In cattle, sheep, and swine, testicular secretions (testosterone and its metabolites) are associated with the greater size of males, but few discussions of growth in domestic farm animals address the total impact of these steroids on developmental processes. The influence of testicular steroids on growth and muscling during pubertal development is well documented (Tucker and Merkel, 1987), but when steers are produced by castration shortly after birth, they are not exposed to testicular secretions during postnatal development. Why then do steers grow faster and larger than heifers? A second point that has perplexed animal scientists is the inconsistency among cattle, sheep, and swine relative to body growth after castration of young males. From Hammond’s Farm Animals (Hammond et al., 1971) we quote, ‘‘While (at equal body weight) the castrated male, in sheep or cattle, has a higher proportion of muscle and less fat than the female, in pigs the position is reversed.” Trenkle and Marple (1983) reiterated this point: “The inconsistent ranking of the barrow as compared with the steer and wether is not easily explained.” We also are unable to fully explain this issue but speculate that this may relate to the time when sexual differentiation of the growth process occurs.


Growth Hormone Sexual Differentiation Prolactin Secretion Gonadal Steroid Body Growth 
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© Plenum Press, New York 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Joe Ford
    • 1
  • John Klindt
    • 1
  1. 1.Agricultural Research Service, Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, Clay CenterUnited States Department of AgricultureUSA

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