Recent evidence indicates that body condition at calving has an important effect on the length of the post-partum anoestrous period in beef cows being longer in cows calving in low body condition (Richards et al, 1986, Wright et al, 1987). It is known that body condition affects baseline concentrations of LH (Rutter and Randel, 1984) and LH pulse frequency (Wright et al, 1987). However, the effect of body condition on ovarian follicles has not been studied.
An experiment was designed to examine the effect of body condition score (BCS) at calving on follicle populations, follicular steroidogenic capacity, follicular histology and patterns of gonadotropin release at two different stages of the post-partum period (5 and 9 weeks after calving) in suckling beef cows.
Thirty-eight suckling Blue-Grey cows with a mean live-weight of 567 ± 9.4 kg and mean BCS of 3.0 ± 0.05 at 110 days before calving to a synchronized insemination were differentially fed so that they achieved BCS of 2.83 ± 0.05 and 2.30 ± 0.05 for cows on a high (H) and low (L) plane of nutrition, respectively. After calving cows were fed a live-weight maintenance ration according to individual requirements. Cows of each BCS were ovariectomized at either 5 (w5) or 9 (w9) weeks after calving and follicles > 3mm in diameter were dissected from the ovaries and incubated for 2 h in culture medium (Medium 199) at 37°C. Follicles were then kept in Bouin's solution until histological examination. Follicle incubates were assayed for progesterone, testosterone and oestradiol. Blood samples were taken 2 days before ovariectomy for 10 h every 15 minutes and were later assayed for LH (all the samples) and FSH (every third sample).