Direct contact may affect the efficacy of stallion exposure in hastening the onset of cyclicity in anestrous mares

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© 2020 Introducing males to seasonally anestrous females has been shown to increase LH concentrations and hasten the first ovulation in ewes and goat does. Investigation of this sociosexual phenomenon in mares has not been well studied. The objective of this study was to determine if direct or indirect exposure of anestrous mares to a stallion would result in a similar increase in LH and hasten the first ovulation. In late February, mares were stratified by parity and age and assigned randomly to three treatments (n = 7/treatment): (1) DXP (direct exposure; mares housed adjacent to stallion and allowed direct contact for 2 h for 3 d/wk by placing the stallion into a cage in the center of a tease pen); (2) IXP (indirect exposure; mares housed in an adjacent pen to the stallion but not allowed direct contact); and (3) CON (control; mares housed away from stallion and not allowed direct or indirect exposure). During the first, third, and fifth treatment days, blood was collected hourly for 8 h beginning just before treatment initiation for measurement of LH and prolactin (PRL) concentrations. Hormone concentrations were analyzed as repeated measures and time from the first day of treatment to ovulation was analyzed using one-way ANOVA. Interval from treatment initiation to first ovulation did not differ (P > 0.05) among treatments: 36.3 ± 6.7, 42.8 ± 4.2, and 48.3 ± 4.2 d for DXP, IXP, and CON, respectively. When comparing the mares based on social status within treatment and level of direct interaction with the stallion, socially dominant DXP mares ovulated sooner (P < 0.05) than socially subordinate DXP mares (23.8 ± 3.2 and 53.0 ± 6.8 d, respectively). Although LH concentrations did not differ (P > 0.05) among treatments, a significant (P < 0.05) day effect was detected with concentrations being greater on the fifth treatment day compared with the first and third days. Concentrations of PRL were greater (P < 0.05) in IXP compared with DXP and CON, regardless of treatment day. Regardless of treatment, PRL concentrations were greater (P < 0.05) on the third treatment day, compared with the first and fifth days. We conclude that exposure of anestrous mares to a stallion, whether direct or indirect, to anestrous mares failed to elicit the same effects that have been observed in short-day breeders. The effect of stallion exposure on the onset of cyclicity in anestrous mares may be dependent on the duration of direct contact.

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