Photoperiod requirements for puberty differ from those for the onset of the adult breeding season in female sheep

in Reproduction
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Summary. Reproductive responses to photoperiod were directly compared in mature ewes and in their spring-born twin female lambs. All females were ovariectomized and treated with oestradiol implants before transfer into artificial photoperiod; serum LH concentrations and pulsatile LH patterns provided an index of neuroendocrine reproductive activity. Mothers were transferred from natural photoperiod to artificial long days (16 h light:8 h dark) at the summer solstice so that no decrease in photoperiod would be experienced. These ewes began reproductive activity synchronously at the expected time in the autumn. One of each pair of twin lambs was treated exactly as the mothers; to determine the normal timing of puberty the remaining twin was maintained in a photoperiod simulating the natural decrease in daylength. In all 6 control lambs experiencing the simulated natural photoperiod, reproductive activity occurred synchronously at 28 ± 1 weeks of age (2 October ± 7 days). However, in their twin sisters which did not experience a decrease in photoperiod, only 2 of 6 lambs had begun reproductive activity by the end of the experiment at 52 weeks of age (March), and these were both delayed relative to their twin control lambs exposed to decreasing daylength. Therefore, a decrease in photoperiod is necessary for the normal timing of puberty in the spring-born, female sheep, whereas seasonally anoestrous, mature sheep can enter the breeding season at a normal time in the absence of decreasing photoperiod. We suggest that the requirement for a decreasing photoperiod by the spring-born lamb reflects its limited photoperiodic history as compared to the adult.

Keywords: puberty; photoperiod; sheep; LH

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