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ARS Home » Plains Area » Clay Center, Nebraska » U.S. Meat Animal Research Center » Livestock Bio-Systems » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #346911

Research Project: Improving Livestock Production by Developing Reproductive and Precision Management Technologies

Location: Livestock Bio-Systems

Title: Antral follicular count is a tool that may allow the selection of more precocious Bradford heifers at weaning

item SANTA CRUZ, RODRIGO - National Agricultural Research Institute(INIA)
item Cushman, Robert - Bob
item VINOLES, CAROLINA - National Agricultural Research Institute(INIA)

Submitted to: Theriogenology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/17/2018
Publication Date: 6/19/2018
Citation: Santa Cruz, R., Cushman, R.A., Vinoles, C. 2018. Antral follicular count is a tool that may allow the selection of more precocious Bradford heifers at weaning. Theriogenology. 119:35-42.

Interpretive Summary: Giving birth early as a heifer increases lifetime productivity and reproductive longevity. One factor that seems to influence early conception is antral follicle count, because heifers with greater numbers of follicles conceive earlier in their first breeding season. Although antral follicle count has been demonstrated to be highly repeatable within heifer after a year of age, no one has ever examined the repeatability of antral follicle count between weaning and the first breeding season. Thus, we determined the repeatability of antral follicle between weaning and first breeding in Braford and Hereford heifers. Additionally, we examined the relationship of antral follicle count with growth traits and with age at puberty. In Braford heifers there was a favorable relationship between antral follicle number and age at puberty, such that heifers with increased numbers of follicles attained puberty earlier, but there was not a relationship between follicle number and age at puberty in Hereford heifers. The repeatability of antral follicle count between weaning and pre-breeding was good (72%). Heifers with greater numbers of follicles had increased rates of growth, greater serum anti-Múllerian hormone concentrations on the day of ultrasonographic examination, and greater serum progesterone concentrations following artificial insemination. These results indicate that antral follicles may be counted by ultrasonography at weaning to aid in the selection of replacement heifers.

Technical Abstract: Although antral follicle count is a repeatable parameter across life that is positively associated with fertility, its use at weaning as a tool to discard less fertile heifers has not been extensively evaluated. The hypotheses of this work are: 1) maximum antral follicle count (MAFC) is repeatable between weaning and pre breeding evaluations, allowing selection of more fertile heifers at an early age, 2) heifers with high MAFC have growth and development parameters linked to an earlier puberty and pregnancy, 3) MAFC has a positive correlation with AMH concentrations, so that both could be used inter changeably. In this study, Hereford (n = 42 and n = 50) and Braford (n = 40 and n = 50) females were used in years 1 and 2; respectively, in a completely randomized experimental design. Heifers were examined for five to ten days at two different moments (post weaning and pre service), to determine MAFC. The concentrations of Anti müllerian hormone (AMH) were evaluated on the day of MAFC assessment. Growth and development parameters were evaluated post weaning and pre service. The repeatability of MAFC between post weaning and pre service evaluations was poor in three cases (Hereford Year 1 = 0.36 and 2 = 0.39 and Braford, Year 2 = 0.32) but it was high for Braford in Year 2 (0.72). The AMH repeatability between post weaning and pre service evaluations was high in one case (Braford Year 2 = 0.72) and moderate in the others (Year 1, Hereford = 0.50 and Braford = 0.52 and Year 2, Hereford = 0.50). In Year 2, Braford heifers with greater MAFC attained puberty at an earlier age (r2 = 0.129; P = 0.0196). Also, diminished MAFC corresponded with decreased growth and development, thus less Braford heifers with low MAFC were inseminated (2/16), compared to those with medium (12/17) and high MAFC (7/17; P < 0.01). Moreover, Braford heifers with low AFC had less progesterone in the cycle post insemination but pregnancy rate was not affected. In Braford heifers in Year 2, there was a high correlation between MAFC and AMH concentrations (0.85 P < 0.001). The results of these experiments indicate that post weaning MAFC and AMH concentrations may be applied to select those Braford heifers that attain puberty at an early age, but these tools are not useful in Hereford heifers.