The aim of this study was to determine if initiation of superovulation in heifers during the time of development of the first dominant follicle (Days 2 to 6) would give equivalent ovulation and embryo production rates as treatment initiated at mid-cycle. Estrus was synchronized in 60 beef heifers using luprostiol (PG) and they were randomly allocated to treatment with 4.5, 3.5, 2.5 and 1.5 mg of porcine follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) administered twice daily, either on Days 2, 4, 5 and 6 (Day-2 group), respectively, or with similar doses at four consecutive days during mid-cycle (Day-10 group, initiation on Day 9 to 11). All heifers received 500 mug cloprostenol at the fifth FSH injection and 250 mug at the sixth injection. Blood samples for progesterone determination were collected at the time of FSH injections. Heifers were slaughtered 7 d post estrus, and the number of ovulations and large follicles (>/=10mm) were determined on visual inspection of the ovary. Following flushing of the uterine horns the quality of embryos and the fertilization rate were determined. Significant differences between treatments were determined using a two-sided t-test, and frequency distributions were compared using Chi-square tests. The mean number (+/-SEM) of ovulations for heifers in the Day-10 group was 12.9+/-1.0, and 8.5+/-0.9 embryos were recovered. Both the number of ovulations (6.7+/-0.8) and embryos recovered (4.1+/-0.6) were lower (P=0.0001) in heifers in the Day-2 group. Following grading based on a morphological basis, a higher number (P=0.002) of embryos was categorized as Grades 1 and 2 (4.1+/-0.6) and Grade 3 (2.1+/-0.4) in Day-10 heifers than in the Day-2 group (Grade 1 and 2, 1.9+/-0.3; Grade 3, 0.7+/-0.2). The number of Grade 4 and 5 embryos (Day 10, 1.6+/-0.2; Day 2, 1.4+/-0.2) and the number of unfertilized ova (Day 10, 0.7+/-0.4; Day 2, 0.2+/-0.1) did not differ between treatments. Progesterone concentrations were lower (P=0.0001) in Day-2 heifers at FSH treatment prior to prostaglandin, and the decline was more rapid following prostaglandin injection at Day 5 (P=0.02). Results of this study indicate that the number of ovulations and embryos recovered was lower in heifers when FSH treatment was initiated on Day 2 compared with Day 10 of the estrous cycle.
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