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Ovarian function in ewes during the transition from breeding season to anoestrus

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Andrew Beard


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Transrectal ovarian ultrasonography was conducted in six Western white-faced ewes for 35 days from the last oestrus of the breeding season, to record the number and size of all ovarian follicles > 3 mm in diameter and luteal structures. Blood samples were collected once a day for estimation of serum concentrations of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), oestradiol and progesterone. Each ewe had five follicular waves (follicles growing from 3 to ≥ 5 mm in diameter) over the scanning period. The duration of the growth phase of the largest ovarian follicles did not differ (P> 0.05) between waves, but follicular static and regressing phases decreased significantly (P < 0.05) after the decline in serum progesterone concentrations at the end of the last luteal phase of the breeding season. The intervals between the five follicular waves were: 9.2 ±0.4, 5.2 ± 0.7, 8.3 ± 0.8 and 5.8 ± 0.7 days; the two shorter intervals differed (P < 0.05) from the two longer intervals. Using the cycle-detection program, rhythmic increases in serum FSH concentrations were detected in all ewes; the amplitude, duration and periodicity of FSH fluctuations did not vary (P > 0.05) throughout the period of study. The number of identified FSH peaks (7.8 ± 0.5 peaks per ewe, per scanning period) was greater (P < 0.05) than the number of emerging follicular waves. Serum concentrations of oestradiol remained low (≤ 1 pg/ml) on most days, in five out of the six ewes studied, and sporadic elevations in oestradiol secretion above the non-detectable level were not associated with the emergence of follicular waves. The ovulation rate was lower than that seen during the middle portion of the breeding season (November-December) in white-faced ewes but the transitional ewes had larger corpora lutea (CL). Maximal serum concentrations of progesterone appeared to be lower and the plateau phase of progesterone secretion appeared to be shorter during the last luteal phase of the ovulatory season in comparison to the mid-breeding season of Western white-faced ewes. During the transition into anoestrus in ewes, the endogenous rhythm of FSH release is remarkably robust but the pattern of emergence of sequential follicular waves is dissociated from FSH and oestradiol secretion. Luteal progesterone secretion is suppressed because of fewer ovulations and diminished total luteal volume, but it may also result from diminished gonadotropic support. These season-related alterations in the normal pattern of ovine ovarian cycles appear to be due to reduction in ovarian responsiveness to gonadotropins and/or attenuation in secretion of luteinizing hormone (LH) occurring at the onset of the anovulatory season in ewes.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Bartlewski PM, Beard AP, Rawlings NC

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Animal Reproduction Science

Year: 1999

Volume: 57

Issue: 1-2

Pages: 51-66

ISSN (print): 0378-4320

ISSN (electronic): 1873-2232

Publisher: Elsevier BV


DOI: 10.1016/S0378-4320(99)00059-7

PubMed id: 10565439


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