Plasma progesterone, oestradiol, 13,14-dihydro, 15-keto, prostaglandin F2 alpha (PGFM) and luteinising hormone were measured in daily samples from eight dairy cows for 15 days before and after spontaneous calving, and compared to patterns obtained from 15 cows during and after induction of parturition with dexamethasone +/- prostaglandin. The average (+/- sd) length of pregnancy in the control cows was 285 +/- 3.04 days compared to 264 +/- 7.4 days in the induced group. Only nine cows required prostaglandin on day 11 after dexamethasone, which resulted in all nine calving 1.7 +/- 0.3 days later. Eight of the 15 treated cows retained the fetal membranes; however, the calving to first heat interval for all treated cows was 46.7 +/- 10 days (range 30 to 66 days) and calving to conception 52.4 +/- 17 days (range 30 to 85 days) compared to 42.1 +/- 15 days (range 28 to 64 days) and 76.5 +/- 24 days (range 54 to 115 days) respectively for the eight cows which calved without induction. The pre-partum hormone profiles were similar in all cows. Hormone profiles in the post partum period were also similar in all cows, irrespective of previous history. Baseline values for progesterone and oestradiol were not reached until 4.6 +/- 1.7 days and 2.75 +/- 0.7 days post partum respectively, whereas PGFM values increased for two or three days, reaching baseline levels 8.87 +/- 2.10 days later. Five cows had secondary peaks of PGFM on days 5,6 and 7. Luteinising hormone values increased steadily after calving in all cows.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)
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