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Theriogenology. 2001 Sep 15;56(5):923-36.

Ovulation of aged follicles does not affect embryo quality or fertility after a 14-day progestagen estrus synchronization protocol in ewes.

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Department of Animal Science and Production, Conway Institute for Biomolecular and Biomedical Research, University College Dublin, Belfield, Ireland.


The aim was to examine the effect of ovulation of aged follicles on embryo quality and fertility in ewes. In Experiment 1, ewes (n = 39) received a prostaglandin analogue on Day 6 of the cycle and then received either a progestagen sponge from Day 6 to 20 after estrus (Single sponge) or a progestagen sponge on Day 6 that was replaced on Day 11 and 16 and removed on Day 20 (Multiple sponges). In a subgroup of ewes, the growth of ovarian follicles was characterised using ultrasonography. Fertile rams were introduced 48 hours after sponge withdrawal; we slaughtered the ewes on Day 5 of pregnancy and recovered the embryos. The mean age of the ovulatory follicles was greater in ewes that received a single sponge compared with multiple sponges (8.7+/-0.8 days, range 4 to 14, versus 4.5+/-0.7 days, range 3 to 6; P<0.05). However, the groups did not differ (P>0.05) in ovulation rate (2.4+/-0.3 corporal lutea per ewe) or the proportion of good quality embryos recovered (71 to 82%; developed to the early morula stage or further). In Experiment 2, ewes (570 in total) received treatments similar to those in Experiment 1 but were kept until lambing. Ewes that received a single sponge came into heat earlier (P<0.05) than those that received multiple sponges, but > or = 97% of ewes in all groups (P>0.05) were bred by 48 to 72 hours after ram introduction. There was no difference (P>0.05) between groups for the proportion of ewes that lambed to first service (80 to 86%) or the number of lambs per ewe (1.94+/-0.08 lambs). We conclude that when luteolysis occurs at the beginning of progestagen synchronisation, ewes will ovulate aged follicles, but that compared to shorter duration follicles, these follicles produce oocytes that are equally competent to be fertilised and develop into good quality embryos and full-term lambs.

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