Seasonal effects on fertility in gilts and sows

J Reprod Fertil Suppl. 1993;48:191-206.

Abstract

The ancestral wild pig is a short day length seasonal breeder. The domestic pig appears to have retained some of this seasonality as evidenced by a reduction in fertility during the summer-autumn period. The most important aspect of this seasonality is a reduction in the number of mated sows that farrow. Many of these sows conceive and embryos develop normally for 20-25 days before pregnancy is terminated and the sow returns to oestrus (25-35 days after mating). In other species, transduction of photoperiodic information is achieved by release of melatonin during the dark period. In the pig, the pattern of melatonin secretion and the subsequent hypothalamo-pituitary-gonadal responses appear to be more complex. A relatively high light intensity is required for pigs to generate a distinct diurnal melatonin rhythm and they appear unable to respond appropriately to abrupt changes in photoperiod. Pigs on restricted feeding and maintained under long photoperiods (but not under short photoperiods) have higher concentrations of melatonin than do similarly maintained pigs fed ad libitum. Continuous release melatonin implants have a deleterious effect on farrowing rate, suggesting that the abnormally high melatonin concentrations observed in sows in summer-autumn play a role in the pathogenesis of seasonal infertility. Ad libitum feeding of sows during the first few weeks of pregnancy may prevent the increase in melatonin concentrations and so remove the seasonal influence on fertility. The pituitary response to different photoperiods is also somewhat confusing. Although there is some evidence of increased sensitivity to the negative feedback of ovarian steroids in the prepubertal gilts and weaned sows during summer-autumn, LH concentrations are increased in early pregnant sows. It is proposed that the failure of sows to maintain pregnancy in summer-autumn results from disruption of maternal recognition of pregnancy causing regression of the corpora lutea, loss of pregnancy and return of the sow to oestrus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diet*
  • Female
  • Fertility / physiology*
  • Luteinizing Hormone / physiology
  • Male
  • Melatonin / physiology
  • Photoperiod*
  • Pregnancy
  • Seasons*
  • Swine / physiology*

Substances

  • Luteinizing Hormone
  • Melatonin