The objective of this study was to examine the effect of a chronic stressor, lameness, on reproductive parameters. Seventy cows 30–80 days post-partum were scored for lameness and follicular phases synchronized with GnRH followed seven days later by prostaglandin (PG). Fifteen Lame animals did not respond to GnRH ovarian stimulation. Milk progesterone for 5 days prior to PG was lower in the remaining Lame cows than Healthy herdmates. Fewer Lame cows ovulated (26/37 versus 17/18; P = 0.04) and the interval from PG to ovulation was shorter in Lame cows. In Subset 1 (20 animals), the LH pulse frequency was similar in ovulating animals (Lame and Healthy) but lower in Lame non-ovulators. An LH surge always preceded ovulation but lameness did not affect the interval from PG to LH surge onset or LH surge concentrations. Before the LH surge, estradiol was lower in non-ovulating cows compared to those that ovulated and estradiol concentrations were positively correlated with LH pulse frequency. In Subset 2 (45 cows), Lame ovulating cows had a less intense estrus than Healthy cows, although Lame cows began estrus and stood-to-be-mounted earlier than Healthy cows. In conclusion, we have identified several parameters to explain poor fertility in some chronically stressed animals. From 30 to 80 days post-partum, there was a graded effect that ranged from 29% Lame cows with absence of ovarian activity, whereas another 21% Lame cows failed to express estrus or ovulate a low estrogenic follicle; in 50% cows, many reproductive parameters were unaffected by lameness
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