Suckling as a regulator of postpartum rebreeding in cattle: a review.
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An extended and variable period of anovulation and anestrus occurs in suckled beef cows following parturition. This imposes both biological and economic constraints on the efficiency of beef production. A large body of knowledge has linked these phenomena to an attenuation of neuroendocrine signals that subserve gonadal function. During late gestation, high concentrations of placental estrogen inhibit the synthesis of LH, and pituitary stores of LH are depleted at parturition. Maximum pituitary stores of LH, releasable pools of LH and the ability of hypothalamic centers to respond to positive feedback effects of estradiol occur within 3 to 4 wk after calving in suckled cows. However, the requisite pattern of pulsatile LH secretion, which accompanies similar changes in nonsuckled cows within 2 to 3 wk after calving, occurs in only 30 to 50% of suckled animals. The period of acyclicity that continues in the remainder is exacerbated by poor body condition and may persist in some females for periods exceeding 100 d. Utilizing data from the cow, as well as other species, a model for suckling-induced inhibition of pulsatile LH release is proposed. The biological and economic impact of current and future techniques for controlling suckling-induced anestrus also is considered, including a conceptual analysis of nonbiological limitations.
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