The timing of the onset of puberty, duration of seasonal ovulatory activity, and length of postpartum anestrus were studied by means of blood plasma progesterone concentrations in a flock of European female mouflons (Ovis gmelini musimon) maintained in captivity under natural photoperiod (40°25′N). Concentrations of progesterone in the peripheral blood were determined by radioimmunoassay in samples collected from the jugular vein twice a week. First ovulations in the breeding season were highly synchronized and occurred in mid-October. In contrast, the cessation of ovulatory cycles showed significant variation among females and extended from February to May, depending on age, with 2-yr-old animals exhibiting the longest anovulatory period (P < 0.01). When lambing occurred within the breeding season (February–April), 12 out of 26 animals had their first ovulation 25 ± 1.8 days after parturition. The 14 late-lambing females had the first postpartum ovulation delayed until the next breeding season. March/April-born mouflon lambs that reached a minimum threshold body weight (23.8 ± 0.6 kg) in their first breeding season reached puberty at 8 mo of age. In those with slower growth rates, however, the prepubertal period was extended throughout the first breeding and nonbreeding seasons, reaching puberty during the breeding season of the following year at 19 mo of age and 27 ± 0.3 kg body weight. Further, attainment of puberty in ewe lambs born in June/July was also delayed until the breeding season of the following year, when animals had reached a threshold body weight at 17 mo of age.
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Vol. 32 • No. 2