Summary. To determine whether the first LH surge of the breeding season initiates a transient rise in progesterone in most ewes, serum progesterone (daily) and LH (every 4 h) concentrations were measured in samples collected from 7 ewes between 19 July and first oestrus or 8 September, whichever came first. In 6 of the 7 ewes, the first LH surge of the breeding season was followed within 5 days by a transient, 2-day rise in progesterone. Within less than 5 (N = 4), or 9 (N = 1) or 10 (N = 1) days later, a second LH surge occurred, which was similar in maximum amplitude and duration to the first surge, and which initiated the first full-length luteal phase of the breeding season. In the remaining ewe, the first LH surge of the breeding season induced an abbreviated (9 days) and insufficient (maximum progesterone, 0·94 ng/ml) luteal phase. These results demonstrate that most ewes have more than one LH surge before the first full-length luteal phase, the first surge inducing a transient rise in progesterone. Therefore, although the seasonal decrease in response to oestradiol negative feedback is sufficient for initiation of the first LH surge of the breeding season, additional endocrine mechanisms may be necessary to induce the first full-length luteal phase.
Keywords: seasonal transition; LH surge; serum LH; short luteal phases; progesterone
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