Reproduction, Fertility and Development Reproduction, Fertility and Development Society
Vertebrate reproductive science and technology
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Early onset of puberty in cattle: implications for gamete quality and embryo survival

D. A. Kenny A B C , J. Heslin A B and C. J. Byrne A B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Animal and Bioscience Research Department, Teagasc Grange, Dunsany, Co. Meath, C15 PW93, Ireland.

B School of Agriculture and Food Science, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, D04 F6X4, Ireland.

C Corresponding author. Email: david.kenny@teagasc.ie

Reproduction, Fertility and Development 30(1) 101-117 https://doi.org/10.1071/RD17376
Published: 4 December 2017

Abstract

Advancing the age at which puberty and subsequent sexual maturation is attained in cattle is central to the reproductive and economic efficiency of both beef and dairy production systems worldwide. Onset of puberty in both male and female cattle is regulated by a complex network of biochemical processes and involves interaction among many key metabolic, neuroendocrine and reproductive tissues. Although our understanding of the biochemical interplay that conditions and eventually triggers the pubertal process has improved in recent years, much of the intricate mechanistic detail still eludes us. Environmental factors, such as nutritional management, as well as the genetic makeup of the animal undoubtedly affect the timing of puberty in cattle. In particular, there is now overwhelming evidence to support the importance of early life nutrition in regulating the timing of puberty in both bulls and heifers. For both genders, there is significant evidence that an improved metabolic status, early in calfhood, advances maturation of the hypothalamic–pituitary–gonadal axis, therefore facilitating earlier sexual development. Although advancing sexual maturation is a desirable goal, it is important that any strategy used does not impinge upon normal gametogenesis or postpubertal fertility potential. To this end, the aim of this review is to discuss the underlying biology of puberty in cattle with particular emphasis on the role of nutritional management during early calfhood in: (1) advancing the maturity of the hypothalamic–pituitary–gonadal axis; and (2) implications for the quality of gametes and subsequent fertility.

Additional keywords: fertility, hypothalamus, nutrition, oocyte, testes, ovary, pituitary, sperm.


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