Progesterone concentrations in peripheral plasma were measured once daily during one oestrous cycle in each of eight sheep. In addition, on days 4–5, 8–9, 12–13 and 15–16 of the oestrous cycle, blood samples were collected at 30-min intervals throughout each 24-h period. A total of three ewes was sampled in each 24-h period and the same three animals were not bled again for at least 1 week. Plasma progesterone concentrations in all the ewes fluctuated considerably throughout each 24-h period. The within-sheep within-day variations observed in peripheral progesterone concentrations were compared with the between-sheep within-day variations and the within-sheep between-day variations previously reported. It is concluded that these previously reported variations in peripheral plasma progesterone concentration could be attributed to within-day variations in each animal.
On days 8–9 and 12–13 of the oestrous cycle there were significantly higher concentrations of progesterone in plasma during the hours of daylight than during the hours of darkness. In contrast, progesterone concentrations on days 4–5 and 15–16 were not found to be significantly different between the hours of daylight and darkness. These results suggest that diurnal changes in peripheral plasma progesterone concentration occur during the luteal phase of the ovine oestrous cycle.