Breeding activity was similarly advanced in ewes given continuous (s.c. implant) or timed (oral dose at 15.30 h) melatonin treatments or subjected to a short (8 h light: 16 h darkness) artificial photoperiod. Treatments commenced in mid-June and were terminated in mid-November. Weekly and serial blood samples were collected before and after treatments commenced, to ascertain the effects on plasma prolactin, LH and FSH concentrations. In addition, serial blood samples were collected for 24 h plasma prolactin and melatonin estimations before and after cessation of the treatments.
Plasma prolactin levels were significantly reduced immediately following the start of the melatonin (implant and oral) and short-photoperiod treatments but 'rebounded' to levels greater than control values. The normal seasonal (spring) rise in plasma prolactin was noted in the following year. Before the onset of breeding activity, mean plasma LH and FSH concentrations and LH pulse frequency did not change following any of the treatments. The 24-h plasma melatonin profile accurately reflected the various applied treatments but had re-entrained to the prevailing (natural) photoperiod 1 week after termination of the treatments. There were no significant group differences in 24-h plasma prolactin levels 1 week before or 1 and 11 weeks after the treatments had ceased.
Such treatments, although successfully advancing the onset of breeding activity and modifying the seasonal plasma prolactin rhythm, were not manifested through any apparent change in peripheral LH or FSH.