Most dairy cows develop the first dominant follicle postpartum within 2 wk after calving, but only about 40% of these follicles produce sufficient estradiol to stimulate ovulation despite having normal ultrasound appearance and growth. This study aimed to characterize metabolic, endocrine, and follicular fluid profiles of cows in which the first dominant follicle postpartum will become ovulatory and those with nonovulatory follicles. Luteinizing hormone pulse frequency, follicular fluid androstenedione, and follicular fluid estradiol concentrations were lower in nonovulatory cows suggesting that the function of theca cells is impaired. In addition, nonovulatory cows had more severe negative energy balance and greater insulin resistance postpartum. This study describes for the first time the steroid hormone profile of early postpartum follicles and shows that a steroidogenic defect most likely occurs in theca cells limiting the amount of androgen precursor available for estradiol production that impairs their ovulatory outcome.
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Vol. 94 • No. 1