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The use of milk progesterone radioimmunossay to assess fertility in the post-partum period of dairy cows Slack, William Leslie Plato


The pattern of post-partum and ovarian activity was monitored in two herds through the use of radioimmunoassay of progesterone in post-milking strippings. The University of British Columbia, South Campus (UBC) herd was sampled on a twice weekly basis, while the Agriculture Canada Research Station, Agassiz herd was sampled every second day. Sampling began approximately six days post-partum and continued up to 60 days post-conception. The estrous cycle was classified into phases based on the concentration of progesterone in the milk samples. Progesterone concentration immediately post-partum and for a varying length of time thereafter remained at basal levels. This was classified as Phase 0 and represented the stage of quiescence in the ovaries post-partum. Phase 1 of the estrous cycle represented the follicular stage when the concentration of progesterone was low. Phase 2 represented the stage when the corpus luteum was developing and the concentration of progesterone was rising. Phase 3, the fully active corpus luteum stage, was when the concentration was highest, while Phase 4 represented the regressing corpus luteum stage when the concentration was falling. The stage of quiescence, from parturition to the initiation of luteal activity was found to be 21.43 ± 11.84 days for 54 animals in the UBC herd and 19.81 ± 8.85 days for 127 animals in the Agassiz herd. Retained placenta increased the duration of quiescence to 25.62 ± 12.41 days for the 12.6% or 16 animals having the condition in the Agassizherd. The 9.3% or five animals having retained placenta in the UBC herd had a much shorter stage of quiescence of 10.80 ± 6.42 days. Two distinct types of first cycles were found, based on the mean concentration of progesterone and the number of days in the period. A normal first cycle exhibited more luteal activity during Phase 3, and remained in this Phase longer than did the shortened first cycle. This may be associated with follicle luteinization in the shortened first cycle rather than true ovulation as in the normal first cycle. The increased frequency of sampling of the Agassiz herd tended to give a more accurate classification of the phases of the cycle as defined, with more Phase 4 samples being identified. Also days in Phase 1 and Phase 2 for both Type 1 (shortened first cycle), and Type 2 (normal first cycle), were approximately half of those observed from the UBC herd. Standard curves of progesterone concentration vs. time for "normal" cycles of various lengths with standard deviations were derived from the pooling of all cycles classed as normal first cycles and normal cycles without a breeding. These "normal" cycles showed that as the cycle length increased, so did time spent during Phase 1 when the concentration of progesterone remained below 4 ng/ml milk. Progesterone profiles of various animals are included, illustrating the wide variety of profiles found. These include profiles of short stages of quiescence, long stages of quiescence, short cycles, long cycles as well as some abnormalities observed. When used as a test for early detection of pregnancy, a single sample from days 21 to 24 for the UBC herd showed accuracies of 100% in determining non-pregnancy and 86% in determining pregnancy. Test results for days 21 and 22 for the Agassiz herd were again 100% accurate for determining non-pregnancy and 90.5% accurate in determining pregnancy. The accuracy of the non-pregnant determination can be increased by including a sample on day of insemination and eliminating those animals inseminated at an obviously incorrect time. With the two sample test on the combined UBC data the accuracy of the pregnant diagnosis increased to 91.5%. On the combined Agassiz data the two sample test increased the accuracy of the pregnant diagnosis to 93.1%. The use of progesterone pregnancy testing offers a considerable saving in time in identifying those animals not conceiving to insemination and a reasonably accurate means of early detection of pregnancy. The average number of days from conception to positive palpation was 51.02 ± 13.19 days for 97 animals in the Agassiz herd and 60.43 ± 23.59 days for the 42 animals in the UBC herd.

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