The mechanisms regulating ovulation rate under natural conditions are not yet defined, particularly for monovular species. In the present study, we evaluated ovarian structures (every 12 h by ultrasonography) and circulating hormones (every 6 h) to determine the differences between cows that developed one (single dominant; n = 16), two (double dominant; n = 8), or three (triple dominant; n = 3) dominant follicles. The four largest follicles were tracked retrospectively, and the data were normalized to the time of expected follicular deviation (F1 ≥ 8.5 mm; hour 0). Follicular dynamics from emergence to deviation were similar, whereas after deviation, expected subordinate follicles continued to grow at a rate similar to the dominant follicle. Triple dominants had greater FSH than double dominants (hour −24 to hour −12) and single dominants (hour −42 to hour −6), and double dominants had greater FSH than single dominants (hour −24 to hour −12). Increased circulating estradiol but lower inhibin were observed in cows that developed multiple follicles. In addition, double dominants had greater LH than single dominants (hour −42 to hour −24 and hour −6 to hour 0) and lower progesterone than single dominants (hour −12 and hour −6). Luteal volume was similar between groups, but milk production was greater for codominant than for single-dominant cows. Thus, selection of multiple dominant follicles during high milk production is related to a transient increase in circulating FSH and LH during the 24 h before follicular selection, producing continued postdeviation growth of follicles that ordinarily would have regressed. Increased FSH and LH probably result from decreased circulating inhibin and progesterone in cows that develop codominant follicles.
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