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PHEROMONES are substances used in chemical communication within species (Karlson and Luscher 1959). Studies have demonstrated the presence of putative pheromones in different body fluids (Kiddy and others 1984) and their effect on reproduction in domestic animals (Tirindelli and others 2009). While pheromone-derived products have been developed in insect chemical ecology to reduce the use of pesticides (Agelopoulos and others 1999), advances in mammalian chemical ecology have been less pronounced. One reason for this may be difficulties in developing bioassays to measure bioactivity in samples. In insects, monitoring of heart rate can be used as a bioassay for pheromones (Angioy and others 2003). The aim here was to investigate whether changes in heart rate can be used as a bioassay, to discriminate between bioactive and non-bioactive substances, also in cattle.
The study included two heifers and two bulls of the Swedish red breed. The heifers were kept isolated from each other and other animals, while the bulls were not. The heifers were approximately 15 months old and displaying ovarian cyclicity at the onset of the experiment. The bulls were 17 and 19 months old, respectively, displaying a normal libido and had been separated from female animals since the age of six months. Urine and vaginal mucus were collected from cows during oestrous. The mucus was collected using cotton gauze tampons, hand-manufactured for the purpose, …