- [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In a naturally mated cycle, ova and viable embryo number as well as embryo size were assessed on Day 4, 10, 14, 18, and 30 of gestation in Romney ewes (n = 38 to 44 per gestational group). For days 4-18 of gestation, embryos were recovered by flushing the reproductive tract following slaughtering of the ewe. Ovulation rate was determined by counting the number of corpora lutea present on both ovaries. For the day 30 group, number of ovulations was measured by laparoscopic examination of the ovaries at day 9-12 of the cycle and number of embryos present were determined by ultrasound examination at approximately day 30 of pregnancy. The majority of embryo loss occurred before Day 14 of gestation with 6% loss prior to Day 4, and 12% loss between Day 4 and 14 of gestation. A similar proportion of viable embryos per number of ova ovulated were recovered on Day 14 and 18 (82%) and Day 30 (81%) of gestation. Fertilisation failure was estimated at 1%. Conceptus and embryo size was most variable on Day 14, representing a period of rapid growth (conceptus length + SD); Day 4 (169 + 8 μm), Day 10 (379 + 93 μm), Day 14 (23 + 32 mm), Day 18 (embryo length + SD; 5.0 + 0.7 mm). Vaccination with commercially available fertility vaccines targeting androstenedione (Androvax and Ovastim) in previous seasons resulted in reduced conceptus size compared with controls. However, no difference in the proportion of viable embryos was observed between treatments, signifying maternal tolerance for considerable variation at this stage of development. Further, the finding that the majority of loss occurs within the first 14 days of gestation highlights the importance of both oocyte quality and the uterine environment for the embryo to successfully overcome the challenges leading up to and including pregnancy recognition in the ewe.
- [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A ewe that is mated as a juvenile (producing a lamb at 1year of age) will produce an average of only 0.6 lambs to weaning, compared to an average of 1.2 lambs in adult ewes. Understanding the underlying causes of this low reproductive efficiency and designing methods to improve or mitigate these effects could potentially increase adoption of mating juvenile ewes. In Experiment 1, 2 Cohorts of ewes, born a year apart, were mated in order to lamb at 1 and 2 years of age and the performance of the ewes at each age was compared. Onset of puberty, mating by the fertile ram, ovulation rate, early pregnancy (day 30-35) litter size, number of lambs born and number of lambs weaned were measured. In juvenile ewes, by day 35 of pregnancy, 43% of ova had failed to become a viable embryo and this early loss was the largest contributor to the poor reproductive performance observed. Compared with young adult ewes, ovulation rate was lower (p<0.001), fewer ova were exposed to sperm (p<0.001) and fertilization failure/embryo loss was increased (p<0.001) in juveniles. In Experiment 2, the early pregnancy litter size of juveniles was shown to be greater (p<0.001) in those ewes with a greater ovulation rate (p<0.001). Attaining puberty prior to introduction of the fertile ram was associated with an increased pregnancy rate (p<0.001). In juvenile ewes, failure to mate with the ram, lower ovulation rate and increased fertilisation failure/embryo loss underlie their poor reproductive performance.
- [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A series of experiments was designed to assess the effect of a treatment protocol (U-synch) for inducing oestrus and ovulation out of the breeding season in adult ewes and ewe lambs. The protocol consisted of a 7-day treatment with an intravaginal progesterone-releasing device (IPRD), administration of GnRH at IPRD insertion on Day 0, and equine chorionic gonadotropin (eCG) and prostaglandin F2α at IPRD removal on Day 7. In Experiment 1, 50 or 100μg GnRH were sufficient to induce ovulation at the beginning of the protocol in 3/9 and 4/9 ewes, respectively; while the resulting proportion of sheep ovulating after the treatment protocol was 88.9% and 77.8% in ewes initially treated with 50 or 100μg GnRH, respectively. In Experiment 2, the proportion of Romney-cross ewe lambs ovulating was greater (P<0.0001) in the U-synch group (95.4%) than in the untreated Control group (3.2%). In Experiment 3, pregnancy rates of Dorset-cross sheep in the U-synch (60.7%) and Standard (12-day IPRD and eCG treatment; 56.5%) groups were greater (P=0.01) than in the untreated Control group (43.4%). The incidence of twin pregnancies was greater (P=0.005) in the U-synch group than in the Control group. A 7-day IPRD treatment including GnRH treatment at device insertion and eCG treatment at device removal induced oestrus and ovulation during the non-breeding season in a high proportion of mature ewes and ewe lambs. High pregnancy rates to natural mating, with a low rate of triplet pregnancies, were also observed. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
- [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This study aimed to determine whether ewes heterozygous (I+) for the Inverdale mutation of the bone morphogenetic protein-15 (BMP15) gene with high natural ovulation rate (OR) show similar sensitivity to nutritional manipulation as non-carriers (++). Increasing pre-mating nutrition results in OR increases in sheep, but whether this effect occurs in ewes with naturally high OR is unknown. Over 2 years, I+ or ++ ewes were given high (ad libitum) or control (maintenance) pasture allowances for 6 weeks prior to mating at a synchronised oestrus, with OR measured 8 days later. The high group increased in weight compared with controls (+5.84kg; P<0.01), accompanied by increased OR (+19%; P<0.01). As well as having higher OR (+45%; P<0.01), I+ ewes responded to increased feed with a larger proportional increase in OR (+27%; P<0.01) compared with the response in ++ ewes (+11%; P<0.05), suggesting an interaction between BMP15 levels and nutritional signals in the follicle to control OR. Although litter size increases only tended to significance (+12%; P=0.06), extra feed resulted in over 50% of I+ ewes giving birth to more than three lambs, compared with 20-31% of I+ ewes on maintenance rations. This information can guide feed management of prolific Inverdale ewes prior to breeding.
- [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Two experiments were designed to investigate the administration of intravaginal progesterone in protocols for oestrus and ovulation synchronization in beef heifers. In Experiment 1, cyclic Black Angus heifers (n = 20) received an Ovsynch protocol and were randomly assigned to receive (CIDR-Ovsynch) or not (Ovsynch) a progesterone device between Days 0 and 7. Treatment with a controlled internal drug release (CIDR) device significantly increased the size of the dominant follicle prior to ovulation (12.8 ± 0.4 CIDR-Ovsynch vs 11.4 ± 0.4 Ovsynch) (p < 0.02). Plasma progesterone concentrations throughout the experiment were affected by the interaction between group and day effects (p < 0.004). In Experiment 2, cyclic Polled Hereford heifers (n = 382) were randomly assigned to one of the six treatment groups (3 × 2 factorial design) to receive a CIDR, a used bovine intravaginal device (DIB), or a medroxiprogesterone acetate (MAP) sponge and GnRH analogues (lecirelin or buserelin). All heifers received oestradiol benzoate plus one of the devices on Day 0 and PGF on Day 7 pm (device withdrawal). Heifers were detected in oestrus 36 h after PGF and inseminated 8-12 h later, while the remainder received GnRH 48 h after PGF and were inseminated on Day 10 (60 h). The number of heifers detected in oestrus on Day 8 and conception rate to AI on Day 9 were higher (p < 0.01) in the used-DIB than in the CIDR or MAP groups, while the opposite occurred with the pregnancy rate to FTAI on Day 10 (p < 0.01). There was no effect of progesterone source, GnRH analogue or their interaction on overall pregnancy rates (64.9%). Progesterone treatment of heifers during an Ovsynch protocol resulted in a larger pre-ovulatory follicle in beef heifers. Progesterone content of intravaginal devices in synchronization protocols is important for the timing of AI, as the use of low-progesterone devices can shorten the interval to oestrus.