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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2002

Repeat breeding in dairy heifers: follicular dynamics and estrous cycle characteristics in relation to sexual hormone patterns

Bage R, Gustafsson H, Larsson B, Forsberg M, Rodriguez-Martinez H


Repeat breeding occurs at an incidence of 10% in the Swedish dairy cow population. Evidence is available for a hormonal asynchrony around estrus in repeat-breeder heifers (RBH). This asynchrony seems to be the underlying cause for a series of dysfunctions such as prolonged standing estrus and delayed ovulation, leading to fertilization failure. For further determinations of repeat-breeder estrous cycle characteristics, seven strictly selected RBH and six virgin heifers (VH) were studied during 3-7 consecutive cycles, with particular attention paid to the estrous period. Follicular dynamics were studied by ultrasonography and related to estrous behavior and pattern of sexual hormones (progesterone, estradiol-17beta, and LH) in peripheral circulation. Mean group data were compared and a classification model was designed. The most prominent findings for RBH were prolonged duration of estrus, delayed LH peak, prolonged lifespan of the preovulatory follicle, and a late postovulatory rise in plasma progesterone. There was also a strong tendency for peri-ovulatory suprabasal progesterone levels in RBH. It is suspected that these deviations cause changes in the microenvironment of the preovulatory follicle, negatively affecting the final maturation of the oocyte. The heterogeneity of the RBH group underlines the multifactorial cause of the repeat-breeder syndrome. The VH formed a homogenous group with data varying within physiological limits. A classification model based on three characteristic variables managed to identify 81% of the VH and 79% of the RBH correctly. Results from this study propose that some heifers have general, consistent problems in synchronizing estrous events, displayed as varying symptoms in the course of consecutive estrous cycles. These subfertile animals could be classified as repeat-breeders. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved

Published in

2002, Volume: 57, number: 9, pages: 2257-2269