Summary. Ovarian follicular development was studied in 13 heifers by daily ultrasound examination during 2 complete and consecutive natural oestrous cycles. In 21 cycles (81%) 3 dominant follicles were identified, in 4 cycles (15%) 2 and in the remaining cycle 1 (4%). Consistently, the first dominant follicle was detected on average on Day 4, reached a maximum size on Day 6, went through a period of relative stability between Days 6 and 10, then began to decrease in size and was undetectable by Day 15. The second dominant follicle was detected by Day 12, reached maximum size on Day 16 (or 19 in the 4 cycles in which the 2nd dominant follicle was the ovulatory follicle) and was undetectable by Day 19. The 3rd (ovulatory) follicle was identified on average by Day 16 (range Days 10 to 19) and maximum size was reached on Day 21. The ovulatory follicles were larger (P < 0·05) than the previous ones and the stage of the cycle at which maximum size was reached was significantly different for each dominant follicle (P < 0·05). The analysis of the rates of growth and atresia suggest that the rate of growth is slowest during mid-cycle. The number of dominant follicles that developed in the ovary ipsilateral to the corpus luteum was greater (P < 0·05) than in the contralateral ovary.
Keywords: heifer; dominant follicle; growth; oestrous cycle; ultrasound
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