Fat affects meat quality, value and production efficiency as well as providing energy reserves for pregnancy and lactation in farm livestock. Leptin, the adipocyte product of the obese (ob) gene, was quickly seen as a predictor of body fat content in animals approaching slaughter and an aid to assessing reproductive readiness in females. Its participation in inflammation and immune responses that help animals survive infection and trauma has clear additional relevance to meat and milk production. Furthermore, almost a decade of discoveries of nucleotide polymorphisms in the leptin and leptin receptor genes has suggested useful applications relating to feed intake regulation, the efficiency of feed use, the composition of growth, the timing of puberty, mammogenesis and mammary gland function and fertility in cattle, pigs and poultry. The current review attempts to summarise where research has taken us in each of these aspects and speculates on where future research might lead.
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