When humans mate, they have the advantage of being able to do so all year round. In contrast, animals tend to mate seasonally, and this can pose a dilemma for breeders and/or farmers – what happens if the breeding season is bypassed without mating occurring? Is there a possibility for breeding to occur outside the specified current mating window? A paper published by El Allali K et al., ‘Effect of Melatonin Implants during the Non-Breeding Season on the Onset of Ovarian Activity and the Plasma Prolactin in Dromedary Camel’ published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science last month (2018 Mar 12; 5:44) seeks to try and address this problem, and the abstract information is looked at here. To read the full article please click here.

For the purposes of this study, the hormone melatonin was given to camels via implantation 4.5 months prior to their normal breeding season. This implantation released melatonin over time, and the camels had also been subjected to additional light before the implantation was carried out. In order to assess the effectiveness of the addition of melatonin, two techniques were used - ultrasound imaging was carried out (transrectally) in order to visualise the development of the follicle, and the concentrations of 3 particular substances were measured (one of which was melatonin itself, in order to make sure implantation was working correctly). The former results will be concentrated on for the purposes of this article.

The results revealed that the follicle increased in size 3.5 months earlier relative to if no melatonin was given when compared to controls. As follicle growth is required before fertilisation can occur, these results suggest that melatonin is aiding in the potential for mating to happen in addition to the conventional breeding times usually adhered to by camels. Most importantly, this modification increases the potential for mating to happen around 2.5 months earlier than if no melatonin was given – extending the time breeders would usually have to play with significantly.

Breeders visiting this site will already know the clear benefits ultrasound imaging can have for their animals. This research opens up yet more possibilities of how veterinary ultrasound can help in this field, and more applications are likely to be discovered in the very near future.