Utilizing body temperature to evaluate ovulation in mature mares
The equine breeding industry continues to be somewhat inefficient, even with existing technology. On average, foaling rates are low when compared with that of other livestock. One major contributor is the inability to accurately predict ovulation in mares, which ovulate before the end of estrus, leaving much variability in coordinating insemination. A more efficient, less invasive method that could replace or reduce the need for constant teasing and ultrasonography to evaluate follicular activity is needed. In both dairy cattle and women, a change in body temperature has been shown to occur immediately prior to ovulation. Research on horses has been limited, although one study reported no useable relationship between body temperature and ovulation in mares (Ammons, 1989). The current study utilized thirty-eight mature cycling American Quarter Horse mares, and was conducted from March-August 2004. Each mare was implanted in the nuchal ligament with a microchip that can be used for identification purposes, but is also capable of reporting body temperature. Once an ovulatory follicle (>35mm) was detected using ultrasonography and the mare was exhibiting signs of estrus, the mare's follicle size and temperature were recorded approximately every six hours until ovulation. Not only was the temperature collected using the microchips, but the corresponding rectal temperature was also recorded using a digital thermometer. A significant effect (p<0.05) on body temperature was noted in relation to the presence or absence of an ovulatory follicle (>35mm) under different circumstances. When evaluating the rectal temperatures, no significant difference was found in temperature in relation to the presence or absence of a follicle. However, in the temperatures obtained using the microchip, temperature was higher (p<0.05) with the presence of a follicle of greater than 35mm. This may be due to the extreme sensitivity of the microchip implant and its ability to more closely reflect minute changes in body temperature.