Reproductive productivity of rising-two-year old red deer hinds on New Zealand deer farms has been a prominent issue over the last 10 years. On average, 16% of young hinds fail to establish pregnancy in their second year, although this figure masks wide between-farm variation. A growing body of ultrasound scanning data implicates failure of ovulation and/or conception at 16 months of age as the main influence on pregnancy rate. While such puberty failure in red deer has often been attributed to poor nutrition and failure of hinds to attain a critical threshold live weight of 65 -70 kg at 16 months, data on growth rates of young hinds from numerous farm monitoring programmes around the country largely debunk this concept. This paper reviews the potential causes of reproductive failure in young red deer, including the putative and actual influences of seasonal, social, stress and genetic factors on puberty failure. An emerging theme is the strong interplay of various environmental and genetic factors in determining the incidence of puberty.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 63, Queenstown, 243-246, 2003
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