Effects of Mixed Pasture Legume Phytoestrogens on Superovulatory Response and Embryo Quality in Angus Cows

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Ovulation and artificial insemination rates have been observed to decrease in sheep and cows when exposed to dietary phytoestrogens at concentrations greater than 25 mg/kg DM. A grazing trial was undertaken to investigate the effects of coumestrol and other key phytoestrogens on the superovulatory response, embryo numbers and quality in beef cows grazing legume pastures. A 7-week controlled grazing trial was conducted with legume and ryegrass pasture treatments, with cows exposed to legumes at two timed treatments, 4 and 7 weeks. Twenty Angus cows were subjected to a conventional estrus synchronization and superovulation protocol. Embryos were recovered via conventional uterine body flushing 7 days post artificial insemination (AI). Numerous phytoestrogens were identified in both pasture and plasma samples, including coumestrol and formononetin. Concentrations of phytoestrogens in the pasture ranged from 0.001 to 47.5 mg/kg DM and 0 to 2.6 ng/mL in plasma. Approximately 50% of cows produced viable embryos 7 days post AI. A significant interaction between the effect of treatment groups on the embryo stage was observed (p < 0.05). The results suggest that concentrations of >25 mg/kg DM of phytoestrogens less than 20 days preceding AI may negatively affect oocyte developmental competence, reduce progesterone production and thus contribute to early embryonic loss.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1125
Number of pages18
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 07 Apr 2024

Grant Number

  • RM103723
  • RM103729


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