The levels of plasma LH and FSH were measured in serial blood samples taken at 15-min intervals for 6 h from ewes that had remained fertile after grazing oestrogenic pasture (clover-fertile ewes), from ewes that were permanently affected by clover disease (clover-infertile ewes) and from normal ewes. Two flocks of ewes from different locations were studied. In flock I, tonic LH secretion (total area under the curve of LH concentration versus time, 1 area unit = 1 ng ml- 1 x 1 h) was significantly (P < 0'05) greater in clover-infertile ewes (10'4 area units) during anoestrus than in ewes that had remained fertile after prolonged grazing of oestrogenic clover (5·4 area units). Tonic LH and FSH secretions during the breeding season and FSH secretion during anoestrus were not significantly different. In flock 2, LH levels during the breeding season were significantly (P < 0'05) elevated in clover-infertile ewes (10' 9 area units) compared to normal ewes (5' 4 area units) that had never grazed oestrogenic clover. LH secretion in clover-infertile ewes (7. 8 area units) was intermediate to that found in infertile and control ewes. Concentrations of FSH, progesterone and ovarian vein oestradiol-17 P (Ez) during the breeding season were similar in the three groups. In another experiment, the positive feedback release of LH following administration of Ez (12'5, 25 or 50 f.1g per ewe) was measured in anoestrous ewes of flock 2. Significantly (P < 0·01) more clover-infertile ewes demonstrated a positive feedback effect than control ewes when given 12· 5 f.1g Ez but not when given higher doses. The elevation of LH secretion in permanently affected clover-infertile ewes is consistent with the hypothesis that the hypothalamo-pituitary axis of these ewes is less responsive to the negative feedback effect of oestrogen. Furthermore, the patency of the positive feedback loop is consistent with the ability to ovulate.
- Clover disease