Photoperiod influences age at puberty of heifers.
Two experiments were conducted to determine if exposure of prepubertal heifers to supplemental lighting hastens the onset of puberty. In Exp. 1, 16 heifers were paired according to birth date (April 21 to July 4) and assigned randomly to exposure to either 18 h light/d (L) or natural photoperiods (N) from 22 wk of age until puberty. Twenty-two heifers in Exp. 2, born between February 27 and March 31 and between May 3 and May 17, 1981, were exposed to L or N from 24 wk of age until March 23, 1982. In Exp. 2, animals were bred at all estrous periods until conception. Age at first ovulation and first estrus were less (P less than .01 for Exp. 1 and P less than .10 for Exp. 2) for L than N heifers. Average ages at first estrus were 318 (L) and 367 d (N) for Exp. 1 and 367 (L) and 394 d (N) for Exp. 2. Age at conception in Exp. 2 was similar for L (380 d) and N (396 d) groups. There were no significant differences between L and N heifers in changes in body weight for either experiment. There was a photoperiod X age interaction (P less than .06) for ovarian volume in Exp. 1 because the rate of ovarian growth was greater for L than N heifers. Concentrations of LH were not affected by photoperiod in Exp. 1 and not measured in Exp. 2. There were no significant changes in LH concentrations between 22 and 34 wk of age. When expressed relative to first ovulation, LH levels were highest at 7 and 2 wk before first ovulation. Concentrations of prolactin in Exp. 1 were not significantly affected by photoperiod. It was concluded that supplemental lighting after 22 or 24 wk of age reduced ages at first ovulation and first estrus in heifers born from February to July. These effects of photoperiod were accompanied by changes in ovarian development.
Hansen, PJ; Kamwanja, LA; Hauser, ER
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