Distribution and repeatability of anterior pituitary responses to GnRH and relationship of response classification to the postpartum anovulatory interval of beef cows.
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Our objectives were to investigate the phenotypic variation in anterior pituitary responsiveness to GnRH (100 microg, i.v.) of beef cows between d 5 and 8 postpartum, estimate repeatability, and determine the relationship between response classification and duration of the postpartum anovulatory interval (PPI). Brahman x Hereford (F1) cows (n = 137) and primiparous heifers (n = 58) were evaluated. Response classifications (Class) included peak LH (Low, Intermediate, or High; Class I) and time to peak LH (Early, 10 to 30 min or Late, 60 to 120 min; Class II). The independent effects of Class I and II on PPI were determined in 145 of 195 cows through twice-weekly serum samples analyzed for progesterone. For Class I, pituitary responses to GnRH approximated a normal distribution and, by definition, differed (P < .001) in magnitudes of peak LH and area under the curve (AUC). For Class II, 111 and 84 cows exhibited early and late peaks, respectively; mean AUC was greater (P < .05) in cows exhibiting late compared with early peaks. Pretreatment LH (P < .01) and estradiol-17beta (P < .004) influenced responses in one or both response classes. Pluriparous cows had shorter (P < .035) PPI than primiparous cows. Class I did not influence the duration of the PPI; however, in Class II, cows with late peaks exhibited an average PPI that was 8 d shorter (P < .025) than in those with an early peak. To estimate repeatability of pituitary responses, 18 classified cows were subsequently rechallenged with GnRH at d 170 of gestation and at the next postpartum period. Although means for each of these challenges differed (P < .05) throughout in both Classes I and II, the small sample size used to make the estimate failed to yield significant (P > .10) interclass correlations. Nevertheless, overall results provide evidence that variability in individual pituitary responses to GnRH could be targeted as a selection marker to improve reproduction.