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1.  Cardiovascular, endocrine and behavioural responses to suckling and permanent separation in goats 
Suckling can be a peaceful or vulnerable event for goats and kids, whereas, separation is suggested as stressful. The aim of this study was to investigate physiology and behaviour in these two different situations in dairy goats.
Four studies were performed with seven goats kept with their first-born kid in individual boxes. The goats were videotaped and heart rate and arterial blood pressure were recorded every minute by telemetry from parturition until 24 hours after separation. One to two days after parturition, Study 1 was performed with analyses of heart rate and blood pressure around a suckling. In Study 2, performed 3-5 days after parturition, blood sampling was done before, during and after suckling. Study 3 was performed 4-6 days post partum, with blood sampling before and after a permanent goat and kid separation. In addition, vocalisations were recorded after separation. Blood samples were obtained from a jugular vein catheter and analysed for plasma cortisol, β-endorphin, oxytocin, and vasopressin concentrations. Study 4 was performed during the first (N1) and second nights (N2) after parturition and the nights after Study 2 (N3) and 3 (N4). Heart rate, blood pressure and time spent lying down were recorded.
The kids suckled 2 ± 0.2 times per hour and each suckling bout lasted 43 ± 15 s. In Study 1, heart rate and blood pressure did not change significantly during undisturbed suckling. In Study 2, plasma cortisol (P ≤ 0.05 during suckling and P ≤ 0.01 five minutes after suckling) and β-endorphin (P ≤ 0.05) concentrations increased during suckling, but oxytocin and vasopressin concentrations did not change. In Study 3, the goats and kids vocalised intensively during the first 20 minutes after separation, but the physiological variables were not affected. In Study 4, heart rate and arterial blood pressure declined gradually after parturition and were lowest during N4 (P ≤ 0.05) when the goats spent longer time lying down than during earlier nights (P ≤ 0.01 during N1 and N3 and P ≤ 0.05 during N2).
Suckling elevated plasma cortisol and β-endorphin concentrations in the goats. The intensive vocalisation in the goats after separation, earlier suggested to indicate stress, was not accompanied by cardiovascular or endocrine responses.
PMCID: PMC2940886  PMID: 20807413
2.  Effects of dietary phytoestrogens on plasma testosterone and triiodothyronine (T3) levels in male goat kids 
Exposure to xenoestrogens in humans and animals has gained increasing attention due to the effects of these compounds on reproduction. The present study was undertaken to investigate the influence of low-dose dietary phytoestrogen exposure, i.e. a mixture of genistein, daidzein, biochanin A and formononetin, on the establishment of testosterone production during puberty in male goat kids.
Goat kids at the age of 3 months received either a standard diet or a diet supplemented with phytoestrogens (3 - 4 mg/kg/day) for ~3 months. Plasma testosterone and total and free triiodothyronine (T3) concentrations were determined weekly. Testicular levels of testosterone and cAMP were measured at the end of the experiment. Repeated measurement analysis of variance using the MIXED procedure on the generated averages, according to the Statistical Analysis System program package (Release 6.12, 1996, SAS Institute Inc., Cary, NC, USA) was carried out.
No significant difference in plasma testosterone concentration between the groups was detected during the first 7 weeks. However, at the age of 5 months (i.e. October 1, week 8) phytoestrogen-treated animals showed significantly higher testosterone concentrations than control animals (37.5 nmol/l vs 19.1 nmol/l). This elevation was preceded by a rise in plasma total T3 that occurred on September 17 (week 6). A slightly higher concentration of free T3 was detected in the phytoestrogen group at the same time point, but it was not until October 8 and 15 (week 9 and 10) that a significant difference was found between the groups. At the termination of the experiment, testicular cAMP levels were significantly lower in goats fed a phytoestrogen-supplemented diet. Phytoestrogen-fed animals also had lower plasma and testicular testosterone concentrations, but these differences were not statistically significant.
Our findings suggest that phytoestrogens can stimulate testosterone synthesis during puberty in male goats by increasing the secretion of T3; a hormone known to stimulate Leydig cell steroidogenesis. It is possible that feedback signalling underlies the tendency towards decreased steroid production at the end of the experiment.
PMCID: PMC2803173  PMID: 20003293
3.  Stress and its influence on reproduction in pigs: a review 
The manifestations of stress, defined as a biological response to an event that the individual perceives as a threat to its homeostasis, are commonly linked to enhanced activity of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the activation of the sympathetic adreno-medullary (SA) system. Activation of the HPA system results in the secretion of peptides from the hypothalamus, principally corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH), which stimulates the release of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and beta-endorphin. ACTH induces the secretion of corticosteroids from the adrenal cortex, which can be seen in pigs exposed to acute physical and/or psychological stressors. The present paper is a review of studies on the influence of stressors on reproduction in pigs. The effects of stress on reproduction depend on the critical timing of stress, the genetic predisposition to stress, and the type of stress. The effect of stress on reproduction is also influenced by the duration of the responses induced by various stressors. Prolonged or chronic stress usually results in inhibition of reproduction, while the effects of transient or acute stress in certain cases is stimulatory (e.g. anoestrus), but in most cases is of impairment for reproduction. Most sensitive of the reproductive process are ovulation, expression of sexual behaviour and implantation of the embryo, since they are directly controlled by the neuroendocrine system.
PMCID: PMC2630310  PMID: 19077201
4.  Plasma concentrations of cortisol and PGF2α metabolite in Danish sows during mating, and intrauterine and conventional insemination 
The aims of the present work was to study whether there are any relationships between cortisol and PG-metabolite in mated sows or inseminated with the intrauterine technique and compare these to changes occurring in conventionally inseminated sow.
Thirty three crossbred sows (Danish Landrace × Danish Large White) were fitted with jugular vein catheters through vena auricularis from one of the ears. The sows were randomly divided into three groups (Boar-, IUI- and AI-group) and blood samples were collected before, during and after service. In a final evaluation only 25 sows that became pregnant and farrowed piglets at full term were used.
Cortisol concentrations increased in all groups but Boar-group (n = 8) had a significantly higher cortisol during 10 to 20 min after service than sows in AI-group (n = 8). In mated sows cortisol concentrations peaked at 15 minutes after service. The Boar-group (n = 8) showed no ascending PG-metabolite levels during the whole experiment, while both IUI- and AI-groups (n = 9 and n = 8, respectively) had a 2.5-fold increase in PG-metabolite 15 minutes after service.
In conclusion, mating of sows by a boar results in a greater increase of cortisol than AI and without an elevation of PG-metabolite levels, which was seen in both the inseminated groups. It was also demonstrated that IUI-group had an earlier significant increase of PG-metabolite levels than sows inseminated conventionally. Further investigation using different semen extenders or even different type of insemination catheters might be helpful in understanding the reason for an immediate increase of PG-metabolite after insemination but not after mating.
PMCID: PMC2217528  PMID: 18053237

Results 1-4 (4)