The possible role of the phytoestrogen genistein on prepubertal development of mammary glands, hormonal status and bone resorption was investigated in gilts. Forty-five gilts were fed a control diet containing soya (CTLS, n = 15), a control diet without soya (CTL0, n = 15) or the CTLS diet supplemented with 2.3 g of genistein daily (GEN, n = 15) from 90 days of age until slaughter (day 183 ± 1). Both basal diets were isonitrogenous and isocaloric. Jugular blood samples were obtained on days 89 and 176 to determine concentrations of isoflavone metabolites (on day 176 only), prolactin, estradiol, progesterone, insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1), and N-telopeptide of type I collagen (NTx; on day 176 only). At slaughter, mammary glands were excised, parenchymal and extraparenchymal tissues were dissected, and composition of parenchymal tissue (protein, fat, dry matter (DM), DNA) was determined. Histochemical analyses of mammary parenchyma were performed. Dietary genistein increased parenchymal protein (P < 0.05) while decreasing DM (P < 0.05) and tending to lower fat content compared with the CTLS, but not the CTL0, diet. There was more parenchymal DNA (1.26 v. 0.92 mg/g, P < 0.05) in GEN than CTLS gilts, likely reflecting an increase in the quantity of mammary epithelial cells. Circulating concentrations of genistein were increased in GEN gilts (P < 0.001) but concentrations of hormones or NTx (indicator of bone collagen resorption) were not affected by GEN (P > 0.1). Percentage of estradiol receptor alpha (ERα)-positive epithelial cells was lower (P < 0.05) in GEN than CTLS gilts, whereas 5-bromo-2′-deoxyuridine labeling index was unaltered (P > 0.1). Transcript levels for ERα, ERβ, IGF1, epidermal growth factor (EGF), epidermal growth factor receptor and transforming growth factor alpha were not altered by treatments. Supplementation of the diet with genistein during the growing phase in gilts, therefore, led to hyperplasia of mammary parenchymal tissue after puberty; yet, even though circulating genistein was increased, this was not accompanied by changes in mammary expression of selected genes or circulating hormone levels.