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Short term, repeated exposure to rams during the transition into the breeding season improves the synchrony of mating in the breeding season

Lookup NU author(s): Penelope Hawken, Dr Andrew Beard


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The ram effect is widely used in Mediterranean breeds of sheep but its use in temperate genotypes is restricted by breed seasonality. However, ewes from these highly seasonal genotypes are sensitive to stimulation by rams close to the onset of the natural breeding season. In this study we developed a pre-mating protocol of repeated, short-term exposure to rams (fence-line contact or vasectomised rams) beginning during late anoestrus and continuing into the breeding season. We hypothesised that this pre-mating protocol would synchronise the distribution of mating of North of England Mule ewes during the breeding season above that observed in ewes isolated from rams prior to mating. Ram-exposed ewes were given contact with rams (Experiment 1: fence-line; FR, n = 94 and Experiment 2: vasectomised rams; VR; n = 103) for 24 h on Days 0 (10 September), 17 and 34 of the experiment. Control ewes (Experiment 1; FC, n = 98 and Experiment 2; VC; n = 106) remained isolated from rams prior to mating. In Experiment 2, a subset of VR (n = 35) and VC ewes (n = 35) were blood sampled twice weekly to monitor their pre-mating progesterone profiles. At mating, harnessed entire rams were introduced, 17 or 16 days after the last ram exposure (Experiments 1 and 2) and raddle marks were recorded daily. The median time from ram introduction to mating was reduced in ewes given both fence-line and vasectomised ram contact (P < 0.001), leading to a more compact distribution of mating and lambing (At least P < 0.01). In the blood sampled VR ewes, there was a progressive decline in the number of days from ram exposure to the onset of dioestrus (at least P < 0.05). This observation indicates that the cycles in VR ewes became increasingly synchronised over the pre-mating period, a pattern not evident in VC ewes. In conclusion, repeated, short-term exposure of ewes to rams during the transition into the breeding season is an effective method of synchronising the distribution of mating during the breeding season. © 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hawken PAR, Evans ACO, Beard AP

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Animal Reproduction Science

Year: 2008

Volume: 106

Issue: 3-4

Pages: 333-344

Print publication date: 01/07/2008

ISSN (print): 0378-4320

ISSN (electronic): 1873-2232

Publisher: Elsevier BV


DOI: 10.1016/j.anireprosci.2007.05.009

PubMed id: 17616281


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