Artificial insemination (AI) can undoubtedly be regarded as the oldest and most widely used assisted reproductive technique/technology (ART) applied in livestock production and it is one of the most important ARTs. The three cornerstones of its application are that it is simple, economical and successful. Artificial insemination offers many well-known benefits for producers. Fresh, fresh + diluted + chilled and frozen semen can be used for AI in small ruminants. To ensure its successful use, the AI technique must be selected on the basis of the type of semen planned to be used. This review paper gives a detailed overview of semen processing and its effects on semen quality, as well as of the AI techniques applied in small ruminants and their success rates.
The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of long-term melatonin treatment applied during the non-breeding season on semen characteristics, endocrine function of testicles and baseline level of insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) in Awassi rams kept in the temperate continental zone of Europe and used as semen donors in an artificial insemination (AI) programme. On 23 February (day 0), slow-release melatonin implants were inserted subcutaneously into rams (n = 8). Control animals (n = 8) received no treatment. In both groups, basic semen parameters (concentration, total motility, fast and slow forward motility, morphology), GnRH-induced testosterone response and basal IGF-I concentration were evaluated on days 0, 47 and 71. No differences were found in concentration of spermatozoa, total motility, and numbers of spermatozoa with fast and slow progressive motility and normal/abnormal morphology between the melatonin-treated and the control group. However, in melatonin-treated animals, basal and GnRH-induced testosterone levels were slightly elevated on day 47 and became significantly higher on day 71 (P < 0.05) as compared to controls. There was no difference in plasma IGF-I levels between the groups. In conclusion, slow-release melatonin applied during the non-breeding season improves testicular testosterone production but does not influence the semen characteristics and the IGF-I level of semen donor Awassi rams used in an AI programme and kept in the temperate continental zone of Europe.
Seasonal differences in the resumption of postpartum ovarian activity, milk production and periparturient metabolic status were investigated in lactating non-suckling dairy Awassi sheep in two consecutive experiments. In Experiment 1, autumn-lambing (AL, n = 27) and spring-lambing (SL, n = 37) ewes were investigated. Ovarian activity was monitored by means of individual progesterone (P4) profiles from day 5 to day 100 post partum. Most of the AL dams (89%) ovulated till day 35 after parturition and became cyclic thereafter. Incidence of persistent corpus luteum (CLP) and short luteal phases (sCL) was frequent (18% and 29%, respectively) among non-conceiving dams. In contrast, only 24% of the SL ewes ovulated before day 35. P4 levels during the luteal phase were lower in cyclic animals, and the cycle was longer in SL than in AL animals. No CLP or sCL was detected in the spring-lambing group, and 61% of SL ewes remained acyclic till the end of the trial. Lactation length was significantly longer in SL dams than in AL ewes (P = 0.008). According to the plasma metabolites (BHB, NEFA) and metabolic hormones (insulin, IGF-I, thyroxine) examined, negative energy balance did not appear in any of the animals. However, seasonal differences were seen in IGF-I and thyroxine levels, which were higher in the SL dams. In Experiment 2, influence of additional lighting was studied in autumn-lambing ewes. The long-day photoperiod (LD, n = 23) group was exposed to artificial light from sunset till midnight (approx. 16 h light/8 h dark) from some weeks before the expected date of delivery in mid-September until the end of December. The control group (n = 25) experienced only natural daylength. The first postpartum ovulation tended to occur later in the LD animals than in the controls (P = 0.047). The lactation of the LD group tended to be longer (P = 0.061). NEFA, BHB, insulin, IGF-I and thyroxine levels did not differ between the groups. Conclusions: (i) The ovarian function of the Awassi population is seasonal under temperate continental climate conditions. (ii) The first postpartum ovulation of non-suckling, autumn-lambing dams may occur very early, even before the completion of uterine involution. (iii) Additional artificial lighting may delay the time of first postpartum ovulation in AL ewes. (iv) Postpartum negative energy balance is unlikely to occur in dairy Awassi ewes even in high-producing intensive systems.
In the regulation of energy metabolism, the liver plays an important role in the reinforcement of energy production. In periparturient cows the energy homeostasis turns into a negative energy balance that may shift the physiological regulation of energy balance towards pathological processes. Propylene glycol (PG), as a complementary source of energy used in the nutrition of dairy cows, alters systemic thyroid hormone economy; however, the exact mechanism through which highly glycogenic feed supplements impact liver metabolism is little known. Previous studies showed that only leptin receptors are expressed in the liver of cows, and now we report that leptin mRNA is expressed in the liver of cows as well. The present results show that the mRNA of leptin and its receptors are differentially modulated by the increased energy content of the feed consumed. Simultaneous changes in hepatic type I deiodinase activity suggest that hepatic modulation of the leptin system by PG supplementation may be mediated by an increased local thyroxine-triiodothyronine conversion. Since PG supplementation with simultaneous T4–T3 turnover and increased hepatic leptin- and short-form leptin receptor mRNA were not associated with a significant change in hepatic total lipid levels, it is suggested that the leptin system, directly or indirectly modulated by thyroid hormones, may represent a local defence mechanism to prevent fatty liver formation.
Follicular development and oocyte quality were assessed by laparoscopic observation and
fertilisation, respectively, in melatonin-treated (Group M) and control (Group C) anoestrous Chios ewes (n = 10 in each group). Fourteen days after melatonin insertion, all ewes had laparoscopic evaluation of the follicular population followed by oocyte pick-up (OPU); on day 22 intravaginal progestagen sponges were inserted for 14 days. Two days after sponge removal the follicular population was re-evaluated and a second follicular aspiration was performed. Collected oocytes from the second OPU underwent
maturation, fertilisation and culture. The number of large follicles was higher in Group M than in the control ewes during the first OPU and tended to be so (P = 0.06) at the second. Morphologically, oocytes collected from controls were of better quality than those from Group M; however, more oocytes collected from melatonintreated animals fertilised and developed
. These results indicate that melatonin is a potent regulator of follicular development and oocyte competence during the anoestrous period of the ewe.