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J Anim Sci. 2002 Oct;80(10):2695-703.

The relationship between body condition, leptin, and reproductive and hormonal characteristics of mares during the seasonal anovulatory period.

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Department of Animal Science, Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, Baton Rouge 70803-4210, USA.


An experiment was conducted to determine the effects of high vs low body condition scores (BCS) produced by restricted feeding on reproductive characteristics, hormonal secretion, and leptin concentrations in mares during the autumnal transition and winter anovulatory period. Mares with BCS of 6.5 to 8.0 were maintained on pasture and/or grass hay, and starting in September, were full fed or restricted to produce BCS of 7.5 to 8.5 (high) or 3.0 to 3.5 (low) by December. All but one mare with high BCS continued to ovulate or have follicular activity during the winter, whereas mares with low BCS went reproductively quiescent. Plasma leptin concentrations varied widely before the onset of restriction, even though all mares were in good body condition. During the experiment, leptin concentrations gradually decreased (P < 0.0001) over time in both groups, but were higher (P < 0.009) in mares with high vs low BCS after 6 wk of restriction, regardless of initial concentration. No differences (P > 0.1) between groups were detected for plasma concentrations of LH, FSH, TSH, GH, glucose, or insulin in samples collected weekly; in contrast, plasma prolactin concentrations were higher (P < 0.02) in mares with high BCS, but also decreased over time (P < 0.008). Plasma IGF-I concentrations tended (P = 0.1) to be greater in mares with high vs low BCS. The prolactin response to sulpiride injection on January 7 did not differ (P > 0.1) between groups. During 12 h of frequent blood sampling on January 12, LH concentrations were higher (P < 0.0001), whereas GH concentrations (P < 0.0001) and response to secretagogue (EP51389; P < 0.03) were lower in mares with high BCS. On January 19, the LH response to GnRH was higher (P < 0.02) in mares with high BCS; the prolactin response to TRH also was higher (P < 0.01) in mares with high BCS. In conclusion, nutrient restriction resulting in low BCS in mares resulted in a profound seasonal anovulatory period that was accompanied by lower leptin, IGF-I, and prolactin concentrations. All but one mare with high BCS continued to cycle throughout the winter or had significant follicular activity on the ovaries. Although leptin concentrations on average are very low in mares with low BCS and higher in well-fed mares, there is a wide variation in concentrations among well-fed mares, indicating that some other factor(s) may determine leptin concentrations under conditions of high BCS.

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