Association between ovarian follicle development and pregnancy rates in dairy cows undergoing spontaneous oestrous cycles
Bleach, E. C. L., Glencross, R. G. and Knight, P. G. (2004) Association between ovarian follicle development and pregnancy rates in dairy cows undergoing spontaneous oestrous cycles. Reproduction, 127 (5). pp. 621-629. ISSN 1470-1626
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1530/rep.1.00190
Ovarian follicle development continues in a wave-like manner during the bovine oestrous cycle giving rise to variation in the duration of ovulatory follicle development. The objectives of the present study were to determine whether a relationship exists between the duration of ovulatory follicle development and pregnancy rates following artificial insemination (AI) in dairy cows undergoing spontaneous oestrous cycles, and to identify factors influencing follicle turnover and pregnancy rate and the relationship between these two variables. Follicle development was monitored by daily transrectal ultrasonography from 10 days after oestrus until the subsequent oestrus in 158 lactating dairy cows. The cows were artificially inseminated following the second observed oestrus and pregnancy was diagnosed 35 days later. The predominant pattern of follicle development was two follicle waves (74.7%) with three follicle waves in 22.1% of oestrous cycles and four or more follicle waves in 3.2% of oestrous cycles. The interval from ovulatory follicle emergence to oestrus (EOI) was 3 days longer (P < 0.0001) in cows with two follicle waves than in those with three waves. Ovulatory follicles from two-wave oestrous cycles grew more slowly but were approximately 2 mm larger (P < 0.0001) on the day of oestrus. Twin ovulations were observed in 14.2% of oestrous cycles and occurred more frequently (P < 0.001) in three-wave oestrous cycles; consequently EOI was shorter in cows with twin ovulations. Overall, 57.0% of the cows were diagnosed pregnant 35 days after AI. Linear logistic regression analysis revealed an inverse relationship between EOI and the proportion of cows diagnosed pregnant, among all cows (n = 158; P < 0.01) and amongst those with single ovulations (n = 145; P < 0.05). Mean EOI was approximately I day shorter (P < 0.01) in cows that became pregnant than in non-pregnant cows; however, pregnancy rates did not differ significantly among cows with different patterns of follicle development. These findings confirm and extend previous observations in pharmacologically manipulated cattle and show, for the first time, that in dairy cows undergoing spontaneous oestrous cycles, natural variation in the duration of post-emergence ovulatory follicle development has a significant effect on pregnancy rate, presumably reflecting variation in oocyte developmental competence.