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The male effect, mounting behavior, and the onset of estrus in farmed muskoxen

Rowell, J.E., Sousa, M.C., Shipka, M.P.
Journal of animal science 2003 v.81 no.11 pp. 2669-2674
Ovibos moschatus, animal ovaries, body weight, bulls, cows, estrus, estrus detection, estrus synchronization, industry, male effect, progesterone, radio telemetry, rump, Alaska
Muskox farming is an emerging industry in Alaska. For such an endeavor to succeed, it is necessary to develop fundamental husbandry tools specifically for this species. This study examined the role of the bull in the onset of seasonal ovarian activity and the synchrony of estrus and tested the efficacy of a radiotelemetric estrus detection system. Twenty parous female muskoxen, ranging in age from 4 to 15 yr, were divided into three groups (balanced by age and body weight). Groups received early bull exposure (EBE; August 1, n = 7), late bull exposure (LBE; August 22, n = 6), or remained physically isolated from a bull (NBE; n = 7). Just before bull introduction, radiotelemetry transmitters were attached to the rump of muskox cows in the EBE and LBE groups. Plasma samples were collected from all the cows twice weekly and analyzed for progesterone (P4). The mean date of onset of seasonal ovarian activity was earlier in the EBE and LBE groups than in the NBE group (P < 0.001) and was earlier in EBE (P < 0.021) than in LBE. All EBE and LBE cows conceived to the first fertile cycle, giving 100% fertility. The time interval for the onset of ovarian activity between the first and last cow within each group was 7 d in the EBE group, 12 d in the LBE group, and 24 d in the NBE group. Radiotelemetry correctly identified estrus 95% of the time (18 of 19 instances). Mean length of estrus for each cow, calculated from the time of first mount until last mount, was 771 ± 98 min (range = 4 to 1,508 min). Mean number of mounts during estrus was 8.89 ± 1.29 (range = 3 to 25 mounts). Length of estrus at the first short cycle did not differ from the length of the first fertile estrus between, or within, individuals. Estrous behavior was initiated more frequently during the night (2300 to 0500; P < 0.05). Bull introduction can be used as a simple, low-cost management tool for synchronizing estrus in farmed muskoxen. Radiotelemetry was an effective tool for identifying breeding behavior in this species.