Characterization of seasonal reproduction in Virginia Tech Selection Line, St. Croix, and Suffolk ewes
Jordan, Katherine Mead
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This dissertation research contained three studies. The first two studies were conducted to investigate the ability of ewes to rebreed while lactating during seasonal anestrus. Breeds studied included the Virginia Tech Out-of-season (OOS) Line, which is a wool line genetically selected to lamb in the fall, and the St. Croix, a hair breed of tropical origin thought to be lowly seasonal. When January-lambing ewes were exposed to rams while lactating in April, significantly more OOS than St. Croix ewes were marked by rams in the first 21 d and total 39 d of ram exposure (58.3 vs. 8.7%, P = 0.0003 and 95.8 vs. 43.5%, P < 0.0001). Percentages of ewes diagnosed pregnant (53.2%) and percentages of ewes lambing (41.3%) were not different between breeds. When March-lambing OOS ewes were exposed to rams while lactating in May, 52.9% of ewes were marked though only 20% of ewes exposed to rams gave birth to viable lambs. Both OOS and St. Croix ewes appear to be well suited to accelerated production systems involving 7 to 8 mo lambing intervals. However, reduction of lambing intervals to 6 to 7 mo appeared to have detrimental effects on fetal survival in OOS ewes. In a third study, alterations in endocrine profiles associated with differing degrees of hypothalamic sensitivity to estradiol-negative feedback and changing daylength in OOS, St. Croix, and Suffolk ewes in the absence of rams were investigated for 1 yr. The results show for the first time that based on progesterone profiles from intact ewes, St. Croix ewes do not have shorter anestrous periods than ewes of wool breeds, as previously thought. Based on luteinizing hormone profiles from ovariectomized ewes treated with estradiol implants, the duration of luteinizing hormone inhibition was shorter in OOS than Suffolk ewes (68 vs. 170.2 d, P = 0.02), but was not different from that found in St. Croix ewes (124.8 d). Specific roles for thyroxine and prolactin in timing the breeding season could not be assigned. This study was the first known use of the ovariectomized, estradiol-implanted ewe model to compare degree of reproductive seasonality in different breeds.
- Doctoral Dissertations