Effects of stress on reproduction in ewes

Anim Reprod Sci. 2012 Feb;130(3-4):135-40. doi: 10.1016/j.anireprosci.2012.01.006. Epub 2012 Jan 26.


Stressors, such as poor body condition, adverse temperatures or even common management procedures (e.g., transport or shearing) suppress normal oestrus behaviour and reduce ewe fertility. All these events are co-ordinated by endocrine interactions, which are disrupted in stressful situations. This disruption is usually temporary in adult ewes, so that, when prevailing conditions improve, normal fertility would resume. Imposition of an experimental stressor (shearing, transport, isolation from other sheep, injection of endotoxin or insulin or cortisol infusion) suppresses GnRH/LH pulse frequency and amplitude. Part of the cause is at the pituitary, but effects on GnRH/LH pulse frequency and the GnRH/LH surge are mediated via the hypothalamus. It is not yet clear whether delays in the surge are caused by interruption of the oestradiol signal-reading phase, the signal transmission phase or GnRH surge release. Stressors also delay the onset of behaviour, sometimes distancing this from the onset of the pre-ovulatory LH surge. This could have deleterious consequences for fertility.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Male
  • Ovulation / physiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Reproduction / physiology*
  • Sheep / physiology*
  • Stress, Physiological / physiology*