Summary. Plasma progesterone and LH secretion patterns were examined in 18 mature dairy cows during the oestrous cycle and after insemination. Blood samples were collected every 15 min for 8 h per day on Days 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21 of the oestrous cycle, then, in the same cows, at the same times during early pregnancy. PGF-2α secretion rates (as determined by plasma PGFM concentrations) were also monitored on Days 14, 16 and the day of, or equivalent to, luteal regression. Mean daily plasma progesterone concentrations were similar until Day 16 in cyclic and pregnant cows, after which values in non-pregnant animals declined. Regression analysis indicated that progesterone concentrations were best described by a quadratic expression with fitted maximum values on Day 13 in non-pregnant animals but values increased linearly over the whole period to Day 21 in pregnant cows. The frequency, amplitude and area under the curve of LH episodes showed no significant differences between cyclic and pregnant animals. In pregnant cows, the amplitude and area under the curve of progesterone episodes increased linearly between Days 8 and 21, although no such increase occurred in cyclic cows. Low-level PGFM episodes were present in cyclic and pregnant cows on Days 14 and 16 after oestrus, and high amplitude episodes occurred in non-pregnant cows during luteal regression. Pregnant cows showed a significant depression of the amplitude, but not the frequency of episodes at the expected time of luteal regression. These results confirm that the corpus luteum of pregnancy secretes an increasing amount of progesterone per se and per unit of LH until at least Day 21 after mating. They further suggest that the corpus luteum of the cyclic cow may experience small episodes of PGF-2α and be subjected to initial degenerative changes by Day 14 after oestrus, some time before the onset of definitive luteolysis.
Keywords: early pregnancy; cow; LH/progesterone relationships