Factors affecting spontaneous reduction of corpora lutea and twin embryos during the late embryonic/early fetal period in multiple-ovulating dairy cows

Theriogenology. 2010 Feb;73(3):293-9. doi: 10.1016/j.theriogenology.2009.09.012. Epub 2009 Oct 23.


Spontaneous reduction of advanced twin embryos has been described in high-producing, Holstein-Fresian (Bos taurus) dairy herds. The first objective of the current study was to determine whether management and cow factors could have an effect on such a reduction in twin pregnancies during the early fetal period. Because loss of a corpus luteum was noted in cows suffering twin reduction, we expanded our study to include multiple-ovulating cows carrying singletons. Pregnancy was diagnosed and confirmed from Days 28 to 34 and 56 to 62 postinsemination. Sixty-nine (23.5%) of 293 pregnant cows with two corpora lutea carrying singletons and 132 (28.4%) of 464 twin pregnancies recorded on first pregnancy diagnosis subsequently lost one of the corpora lutea or one of the embryos, respectively. Thirty-four (25.8%) of the 132 twin pregnancies suffering embryo reduction lost one corpus luteum along with the embryo. Corpus luteum reduction always occurred in the ovary ipsilateral to the gravid horn suffering embryo reduction. Binary logistic regressions were performed considering corpus luteum and embryo reduction as dependent variables in single and twin pregnancies, respectively, and several management- and cow-related factors as independent variables. In cows carrying singletons, the risk of corpus luteum reduction was 14.3 (1/0.07) times lower for a given herd, whereas the interaction season by laterality significantly affected corpus luteum reduction such that in cows with two corpora lutea ipsilateral to the horn of pregnancy, the risk of reduction decreased during the winter period. In cows carrying twins, ipsilateral twin pregnancies were 3.45 (1/0.29) times more likely to undergo the loss of one embryo than bilateral twin pregnancies. As an overall conclusion, both corpora lutea and embryos were vulnerable to the effects of stress factors during the early fetal period in cows maintaining their pregnancies. A strong unilateral relationship between the corpus luteum and the conceptus was also observed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Veterinary / diagnostic imaging*
  • Abortion, Veterinary / epidemiology
  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Corpus Luteum / diagnostic imaging*
  • Embryo, Mammalian / diagnostic imaging*
  • Female
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Multiple
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Physiological
  • Ultrasonography