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J Dairy Sci. 2002 Nov;85(11):2813-22.

Ovarian structures and circulating steroids in heifers and lactating cows in summer and lactating and dry cows in winter.

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  • 1Dairy Science Department, University of Wisconsin, Madison 53706, USA.


Two experiments compared follicular and luteal development and circulating steroid concentrations from induced luteolysis to ovulation in lactating Holstein cows (n = 27; 40.0 +/- 1.5 kg milk/day) vs. nulliparous heifers (n = 28; 11 to 17 mo-old) during summer (Experiment 1), and in lactating (n = 27; 45.9 +/- 1.4 kg milk/d) vs. dry cows (n = 26) during winter (experiment 2). All females received PGF2,, 6 d after ovulation and were monitored until next ovulation by daily ultrasound and assay of serum progesterone (P4) and estradiol (E2). Every female was used two or three times. In Experiment 1, lactating cows had high incidence of multiple ovulation (63.5%) compared with heifers (1.3%). Among single ovulators, there was no difference in maximal size of ovulatory follicles between lactating cows and heifers (15.8 vs. 16.5 mm, respectively). However, lactating cows had lower peak serum E2 (8.6 vs. 12.1 pg/ml), took longer to ovulate after luteolysis (4.6 vs. 3.8 d), developed more luteal tissue volume (7,293.6 vs. 5,515.2 mm3), and had lower serum P4 on d 6 after ovulation (2.0 vs. 3.0 ng/ml) than heifers (data included multiple ovulators). In experiment 2, multiple ovulations were similar between lactating and dry cows (17.9 vs. 17.2%, respectively). Peak serum E2 was also similar between lactating and dry cows (7.6 vs. 8.5 pg/ml) although lactating cows had larger ovulatory follicles (18.6 vs. 16.2 +/- 0.4 mm). Lactating cows took longer to ovulate (4.8 vs. 4.2 d), developed more luteal tissue (7,599 vs. 5,139 +/- 468 mm3), but had similar serum P4 (2.2 vs. 1.9 ng/ ml) compared with dry cows. Therefore, lactating cows had similar or lower circulating steroid concentrations than dry cows or heifers, respectively, despite having larger ovarian structures.

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