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Use of Equine Chorionic Gonadotropin to Control Reproduction of the Dairy Cow: A Review

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Equine chorionic gonadotropin (eCG) is a member of the glycoprotein family of hormones along with LH, FSH and thyroid-stimulating hormone. In non-equid species, eCG shows high LH- and FSH-like activities and has a high affinity for both FSH and LH receptors in the ovaries. On the granulosa and thecal cells of the follicle, eCG has long-lasting LH- and FSH-like effects that stimulate oestradiol and progesterone secretion. Thus, eCG administration in dairy cattle results in fewer atretic follicles, the recruitment of more small follicles showing an elevated growth rate, the sustained growth of medium and large follicles and improved development of the dominant and pre-ovulatory follicle. In consequence, the quality of the ensuing CL is improved, and thereby progesterone secretion increased. Based on these characteristics, eCG treatment is utilized in veterinary medicine to control the reproductive activity of the cow by i) improving reproductive performance during early post-partum stages; ii) increasing ovulation and pregnancy rates in non-cyclic cows; iii) improving the conception rate in cows showing delayed ovulation; and finally, iv) eCG is currently included in protocols for fixed-time artificial insemination since after inducing the synchrony of ovulation using a progesterone-releasing device, eCG has beneficial effects on embryo development and survival. The above effects are not always observed in cyclic animals, but they are evident in animals in which LH secretion and ovarian activity are reduced or compromised, for instance, during the early post-partum period, under seasonal heat stress, in anoestrus animals or in animals with a low body condition score.

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