Summary. Embryos collected from donor ewes 2 days after oestrus were transferred to the oviducts of entire cyclic (Group EC), unilaterally ovariectomized and cyclic (Group UO), entire anoestrous (Group EA), and bilaterally ovariectomized (Group BO) ewes, and 4 h, 1, 3 or 5 days after transfer the oviducts and uteri were flushed to recover embryos. Ewes in Group BO were untreated or treated with regimens of progesterone and oestradiol designed to simulate ovarian secretion before, around the time of, and after oestrus in entire ewes.
There were no differences in the proportions of transferred embryos that were recovered, or in their location (oviduct or uterus), between the two sides of Group UO ewes and they were similar to recovery rates and locations of embryos in Group EC ewes. At 3 days after transfer, 62% and 50%, respectively, of embryos recovered from ewes in Groups EC and UO were in the uterus and by 5 days the percentages had risen to 89% and 75%, respectively.
With all treatment regimens fewer of the transferred embryos were recovered from Group BO ewes than from Group EC ewes and few were located in the uterus. In Group BO ewes low recovery rates, and failure of embryos to enter the uterus, appeared to be due to deficiencies in the treatment regimens rather than to effects of ovariectomy.
Most embryos recovered from treated ewes in Group BO and those in Groups EC and UO showed apparently normal development (86% and 79%, respectively), while 65% and 75%, respectively, recovered from untreated Group BO and Group EA ewes had developed normally. Only 9 of 163 embryos recovered from the untreated Group BO and EA ewes were located in the uterus and 8 of the 9 had failed to develop normally. Clearly, the steroid hormone requirements for development in the oviducts are not critical, but this is not so for the uterus.
Keywords: ewe; embryo; oviduct; transport; development