Altering prolactin concentrations in sows.
Prolactin has a multiplicity of actions, but it is of particular importance in gestating and lactating animals. In sows, it is involved in the control of mammary development and also holds essential roles in the lactogenic and galactopoietic processes. Furthermore, low circulating concentrations of prolactin are associated with the agalactia syndrome. The crucial role of prolactin makes it important to understand the various factors that can alter its secretion. Regulation of prolactin secretion is largely under the negative control of dopamine, and dopamine agonists consistently decrease prolactin concentrations in sows. On the other hand, injections of dopamine antagonists can enhance circulating prolactin concentrations. Besides pharmacologic agents, many other factors can also alter prolactin concentrations in sows. The use of Chinese-derived breeds, for instance, leads to increased prolactin concentrations in lactating sows compared with standard European white breeds. Numerous husbandry and feeding practices also have a potential impact on prolactin concentrations in sows. Factors, such as provision of nest-building material prepartum, housing at farrowing, high ambient temperature, stress, transient weaning, exogenous thyrotropin-releasing factor, exogenous growth hormone-releasing factor, nursing frequency, prolonged photoperiod, fasting, increased protein and/or energy intake, altered energy sources, feeding high-fiber diets, sorghum ergot or plant extracts, were all studied with respect to their prolactinemic properties. Although some of these practices do indeed affect circulating prolactin concentrations, none leads to changes as drastic as those brought about by dopamine agonists or antagonists. It appears that the numerous factors regulating prolactin concentrations in sows are still not fully elucidated, and that studies to develop novel applicable ways of increasing prolactin concentrations in sows are warranted.
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