Reproductive cycles in sheep.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, 50 Stone Road, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.
Animal reproduction science (Impact Factor: 1.56). 02/2011; 124(3-4):259-68. DOI:10.1016/j.anireprosci.2011.02.024
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT During the last three decades, there has been remarkable progress in many aspects of ovarian biology due to advances in real-time ultrasonography, which permits non-invasive, repeated monitoring of ovarian structures in conscious and non-anaesthetised animals. This review is primarily concerned with ovarian activity, as determined by transrectal ultrasonography, and measurements of circulating concentrations of gonadotrophins and ovarian steroids during reproductive cycles in sheep. The growth of antral follicles reaching ostensibly ovulatory sizes occurs in a wave-like pattern throughout the breeding season in both prolific and non-prolific breeds of sheep. There are typically 3 or 4 waves of follicle development during the interovulatory interval. Follicular wave emergence is primarily controlled by changes in circulating concentrations of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) but diminished ovarian responsiveness to gonadotrophic signals may result in reduced numbers of follicular waves. In cyclic ewes, the largest ovarian follicles acquire the ability to secrete oestradiol from the day of emergence with peak oestradiol secretion occurring about the time they reach maximum diameter. The high ovulation rate in some prolific breeds may be achieved by the ovulation of follicles from the last two waves of the interovulatory interval. Prolific ewes tend to produce more but smaller corpora lutea (CL) and have lower serum concentrations of progesterone during the luteal phase of the oestrous cycle as compared to less prolific genotypes. Lastly, recent studies of the endocrine influences on ovarian function have brought into question the existence of strong follicular dominance, as seen in cattle, and provided new insights into the effects of luteal progesterone on antral follicular development in ewes.

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