Influence of lambing date on subsequent ovarian cyclicity and ovulation rate in ewes

L M Mitchell, M E King, Raymond Aitken, Jacqueline Wallace

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Abstract

The effect of lambing date on the subsequent onset and duration of ovarian cyclicity in Mule (Bluefaced Leicester x Scottish Blackface) ewes was investigated. Nineteen ewes which had lambed in January (16 January 1993 (s.e. 3 days)) and been weaned in February-March and 22 comparable ewes which had lambed in May (14 May 1993 (s.e. 2 days)) and been weaned on 23 August were maintained at pasture as two isolated groups. A raddled vasectomized ram was continually present with each group from 14 July 1993 to 26 May 1994 and marked (oestrous) ewes were recorded twice weekly. Ovarian activity was assessed by measuring peripheral progesterone concentrations in blood samples collected twice weekly and by laparoscopic viewing of the ovaries of all ewes during October, January and March. The onset and duration of ovarian activity were significantly affected by the previous lambing date. For January and May lambing ewes, mean dates of onset were 5 September 1993 (s.e. 2 days) v. 25 September 1993 (s.e. 4 days) (P < 0.001) and of cessation were 5 April 1994 (s.e. 5 days) v. 10 April 1994 (s.e. 3 days). Mean durations of ovarian activity were 212 (s.e. 6) and 195 (s.e. 5) days (P < 0.05) during which 12.4 (s.e. 0.29) and 11.5 (s.e. 0.38) ovarian cycles respectively were recorded. Ovulation rate was not affected by previous lambing date but was significantly lower in March compared with October (January lambing ewes 1.7 (s.e. 0.1) v. 2.3 (s.e. 0.1) (P < 0.001); May lambing ewes 1.6 (s.e. 0.1) v. 2.1 (s.e. 0.1) (P < 0.01)). Results demonstrate that (i) Mule ewes have a potential breeding season of up to 8 months duration; (ii) the onset and duration of ovarian activity can be influenced by previous lambing date; and (iii) a seasonal decline in ovulation rate may, in practical terms, result in a lower lambing percentage for animals bred towards the end of their natural breeding period.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-81
Number of pages7
JournalANIMAL SCIENCE
Volume65
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1997

Keywords

  • ewes
  • ovulation rate
  • parturition
  • seasonality
  • breeding-season
  • reproductive-performance
  • estrous cyclicity
  • melatonin
  • onset
  • sheep
  • photoperiod
  • daylength
  • nutrition
  • prolactin

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