Thermal Mechanisms Preventing or Favoring Multiple Ovulations in Dairy Cattle
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While cows are predominantly monovular, over the past 30 years the incidence of multiple ovulations and thus twinning has increased considerably alongside milk production. Multiple pregnancies are not desirable as they negatively affect the health of cows and the herd economy. Although causal mechanisms associated with multiple ovulations have been extensively revised, the process of multiple ovulations is not well understood. Recent studies on the thermal biology of the reproductive system have shown how thermal mechanisms may prevent or favor multiple ovulations. This review focuses on this relationship between thermal dynamics and multiple pregnancies. Cooling of the pre-ovulatory follicle is able to regulate ovulation. In effect, pre-ovulatory local cooling of the female reproductive system favors male and female gamete maturation and promotes fertilization. Thermal stress is proposed here as a model of stress. Periods of high ambient temperature affect the processes of pre-ovulatory follicular cooling and multiple ovulations. While the ratio between unilateral and bilateral multiple pregnancies is normally close to one, under heat stress conditions, this ratio may be 1.4 favoring unilateral multiple pregnancies. A ratio approaching unity is here proposed as an indicator of cow wellbeing.