Follicles were monitored daily by ultrasound and blood samples for FSH assay were collected daily from eight heifers from day 90 of pregnancy to the emergence of the first postpartum follicular wave. Follicles ≥6 mm in diameter emerged in groups or waves in each heifer (P < 0.005). Follicular waves developed rhythmically throughout pregnancy, except that follicles ≥6 mm were not detected during the last 21.6 ± 2.4 (mean ± sem) days of pregnancy. The characteristics of the first follicular wave after day 90 were similar to previous reports for days 10–100. However, between months 4 (days 90–119) and 5, there was a decrease (P < 0.05) in monthly means for maximum diameter (mm) of largest (11.1 ± 0.5 versus 9.5 ± 0.5) and second largest (8.0 ± 0.3 versus 6.9 ± 0.2) follicles, duration of the interwave interval (8.1 ± 0.4 versus 6.6 ± 0.3 days), and number of follicles per wave (3.7 ± 0.4 versus 2.5 ± 0.4). Averaged over all follicular waves during months 4–9, the concentrations of FSH normalized to the emergence of a follicular wave increased (P < 0.05) over the 3 days before emergence, reached peak values on the day of emergence of the future dominant follicle at 4 mm, and decreased (P < 0.05) over the 3 days following emergence. Surges in FSH concentrations occurred throughout pregnancy, but during the last 30 days of pregnancy the number of surges was reduced and each heifer had one or two ineffective surges (no follicular wave detected). The temporal relationship between FSH surges and emergence of waves was closer (P < 0.01) than would be expected if the two events were independent. Surges of FSH occurred rhythmically even when there was no follicular response (no follicle > 5 mm). In association with waves in which the largest follicle reached ≥ 10 mm compared with 6–9 mm, there was greater depression in the FSH nadir, longer intervals from FSH peak to nadir, and longer intervals between adjacent FSH peaks and adjacent waves.
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