Two experiments were conducted to examine the effects of supplementation of a control diet of barley grain and barley straw containing 4 mg copper (Cu)/kg dry matter (D.M.) either with 5 mg molybdenum (Mo)/kg D.M. or with 500 or 800 mg iron (Fe)/kg D.M. on puberty, fertility and oestrous cycles of cattle. Puberty occurred normally in control, Fesupplemented and control animals on a restricted intake whereas it was delayed by 12 and 8 weeks respectively by Mo supplementation. This effect of Mo was not due to the low Cu status since this was equally low in the Fe-supplemented animals, nor was it due to the reduced growth rate since puberty occurred normally in control animals that had a similar live-weight gain. A significant reduction in the pulsatile release of luteinizing hormone was observed within 11 weeks of the Mo supplementation and before any of the other clinical signs were evident, suggesting that Mo may be affecting puberty by altering the release of luteinizing hormone either directly or indirectly.
Mo supplementation significantly reduced the percentage conception rate to 12–33% compared with 57–80% in control and Fe-supplemented animals. This effect was not dependent on the rate of live-weight gain which was standardized across the different treatments at approximately 0·6 kg/day. Within 12 weeks of the replacement of dietary Fe by Mo a lower conception rate occurred; replacing dietary Mo by Fe led to a normal conception rate within 12 weeks without any accompanying changes in Cu status or in the rate of live-weight gain. The plasma Mo concentrations, however, changed significantly during these alterations in dietary supplementation. The pre-ovulatory peak height of luteinizing hormone was significantly lower in animals on the Mo-supplemented diet compared with control and Fe-supplemented animals, but the administration of LHRH did not alter the conception rate.
More Mo-supplemented animals failed to ovulate following prostaglandin induced synchronization in comparison with the other treatments, and by the 84th week a significantly greater number of Mo-supplemented animals (12/18) had become anoestrous compared with the other groups (2/30). Cu repletion of these anoestrous Mo animals for a period of 20 weeks did not result in resumption of normal oestrous cycles, but ovulation and oestrus were induced by progesterone and LHRH treatment. Results in the latter part of the study indicated that Mo caused superovulation.
These data show that Mo supplementation delayed the onset of puberty, decreased the conception rate and caused anovulation and anoestrus in cattle without accompanying changes in Cu status or in live-weight gain. It is suggested that these effects of Mo are associated with a decreased release of luteinizing hormone that might be due to an altered ovarian steroid secretion.