Ketosis was diagnosed in a flock of Merino ewes that conceived from synchronised oestrus in the early autumn period. On day 140 of pregnancy the ewes were sampled for determination of βOH-butyrate (BHB), AST, glucose, non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA), total cholesterol (TCH), insulin, T4, T3, cortisol, IGF-1 and leptin. The results were evaluated according to the number of fetuses born some days later and the presence of hyperketonaemia (BHB: ≥ 1.60 mmol/1). In May, about 3 months after lambing, cyclic ovarian function was induced (Cronolone + eCG), and the ewes were inseminated artificially (AI) 48 h after the removal of gestagen-containing sponge. At the time of AI and 10 days later blood samples were collected again to check the plasma levels of the same constituents as previously (in samples taken at AI), and to monitor the ovarian response by assaying progesterone (in both samples). On day 140 of gestation significantly lower BHB levels were detected in dams with single (n = 41) than in those with twin (n = 57) pregnancies. Hyperketonaemia was found only in ewes bearing twins (n = 27). These animals had higher NEFA and cortisol, and lower TCH, insulin, IGF-1, leptin and T3 levels than their normoketonaemic twin-bearing flockmates, and those with single pregnancy. The blood glucose concentrations varied within a wide range, and the means of groups did not exhibit any significant differences. The formerly hyperketonaemic individuals were characterised by lower leptin level 3 months after lambing, and they showed a poorer response to the cycle-induction procedure than the others. The non-responders had lower IGF-1 and leptin levels than those ovulated after this treatment. It was concluded that the subclinical form of ovine ketosis is characterised by complex endocrine alterations, reflecting an obvious form of negative energy balance. If attempts to induce cyclic ovarian function outside the breeding season are made soon after lambing, the ovarian response and fertility of these ewes may also be depressed.
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