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Seasonal reproduction and production in fish, birds and farm mammals

Inra Prod.Anim., 22 (2), 77-90

P. CHEMINEAU ¹,²,³,⁴, B. MALPAUX ¹,²,³,⁴, J.P. BRILLARD ¹,²,³,⁴, A. FOSTIER ⁵

1 INRA, UMR85 Physiologie de la Reproduction et des Comportements, F-37380 Nouzilly, France

2 CNRS, UMR6175 Physiologie de la Reproduction et des Comportements, F-37380 Nouzilly, France

3 Université François Rabelais de Tours, F-37041 Tours, France

4 Haras Nationaux, F-37380 Nouzilly, France

5 INRA, UR1037 SCRIBE, F-35042 Rennes, France

A large majority of farm animals express seasonal variations in their production traits, thus inducing seasonal availability of fresh derived animal products (meat, milk, cheese and eggs). This pattern is in part the consequence of the farmer’s objective to market his/her pro-ducts during the most economically favourable period. It may also be imposed by the season-dependent access to feed resources, as in ruminants, or by the specific requirements derived from adaptation to environmental conditions such as water temperature in fish. But seasonal variations in animal products are also the consequence of constraints resulting from the occurrence of a more or less marked seasonal reproductive season in most farm animal species including fish, poultry and mammals. Like their wild counterparts, at mid and high latitudes, most farm animals normally give birth at the end of winter-early spring, the most favourable period for the progeny to survive and thus promote the next generation. As a consequence, most species show seasonal variations in their ovulation frequency (mammals and fish : presence or absence of ovulation ; birds : variations or suppression of laying rates), spermatogenic activity (from moderate to complete absence of sperm production), gamete quality (variations in fertilisation rates and embryo survival), and also sexual behaviour. Among species of interest for animal production, fishes and birds are generally considered as more directly sensitive to external factors (mainly temperature in fish, photoperiod in birds). In all species, it is therefore advisable that artificial photoperiodic treatments consis-ting of extra-light during natural short days (in chickens, turkeys, guinea fowl, sheep and goats) or melatonin during long days (in goats, sheep) be extensively used to either adjust the breeding season to the animal producer’s needs and/or to completely overcome seasonal variations of sperm production in artificial insemination centres (mammals) and breeder flock operations (poultry, fish farming). Pure light treatments (without melatonin), especially when applied in open barns, could be considered as non invasive ones that fully respect animal welfare.

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