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The estrous cycle of mono-ovulatory species such as cows or humans, is known to show two or more waves of follicular growth and decline between two successive ovulations. Within each wave, there is one dominant follicle escorted by subordinate follicles of varying number. Under the surge of the luteinizing hormone a growing dominant follicle ovulates. Rarely the number of ovulating follicles exceeds one. In the biological literature, the change of hormonal concentrations and individually varying numbers of follicular receptors are made responsible for the selection of exactly one dominant follicle, yet a clear cause has not been identified. In this paper, we suggest a synergistic explanation based on competition, formulated by a parsimoniously defined system of ordinary differential equations (ODEs) that quantifies the time evolution of multiple follicles and their competitive interaction during one wave. Not discriminating between follicles, growth and decline are given by fixed rates. Competition is introduced via a growth-suppressing term, equally supported by all follicles. We prove that the number of dominant follicles is determined exclusively by the ratio of follicular growth and competition. This number turns out to be independent of the number of subordinate follicles. The asymptotic behavior of the corresponding dynamical system is investigated rigorously, where we demonstrate that the omega-limit set only contains fixed points. When also including follicular decline, our ODEs perfectly resemble ultrasound data of bovine follicles. Implications for the involved but not explicitly modeled hormones are discussed.

Nutrition plays a crucial role in regulating reproductive hormones and follicular
development in cattle. This is visible particularly during the time of negative
energy balance at the onset of milk production after calving. Here, elongated
periods of anovulation have been observed, resulting from alterations in luteiniz-
ing hormone concentrations, likely caused by lower glucose and insulin concen-
trations in the blood. The mechanisms that result in a reduced fertility are
not completely understood, although a close relationship to the glucose-insulin
metabolism is widely supported. Following this idea, a mathematical model of
the hormonal network combining reproductive hormones and hormones that are
coupled to the glucose compartments within the body of the cow was developed.
The model is built on ordinary differential equations and relies on previously
introduced models on the bovine estrous cycle and the glucose-insulin dynam-
ics. Necessary modifications and coupling mechanisms are thoroughly discussed.
Depending on the composition and the amount of food, in particular the glu-
cose content in the dry matter, the model quantifies reproductive hormones and
follicular development over time. Simulation results for different nutritional
regimes in lactating and non-lactating dairy cows are examined and compared
with experimental studies. Regarding its applicability, this work is an early
attempt towards developing in silico feeding strategies and may eventually help
refining and reducing animal experiments.

The reproductive cycle of mono-ovulatory species such as cows or humans is known to show two or more waves of follicular growth and decline between two successive ovulations. Within each wave, there is one dominant follicle escorted by subordinate follicles of varying number. Under the surge of the luteinizing hormone a growing dominant follicle ovulates. Rarely the number of ovulating follicles exceeds one. In the biological literature, the change of hormonal concentrations and individually varying numbers of follicular receptors are made responsible for the selection of exactly one dominant follicle, yet a clear cause has not been identified. In this paper, we suggest a synergistic explanation based on competition, formulated by a parsimoniously defined system of ordinary differential equations (ODEs) that quantifies the time evolution of multiple follicles and their competitive interaction during one wave. Not discriminating between follicles, growth and decline are given by fixed rates. Competition is introduced via a growth-suppressing term, equally supported by all follicles. We prove that the number of dominant follicles is determined exclusively by the ratio of follicular growth and competition. This number turns out to be independent of the number of subordinate follicles. The asymptotic behavior of the corresponding dynamical system is investigated rigorously, where we demonstrate that the ω-limit set only contains fixed points. When also including follicular decline, our ODEs perfectly resemble ultrasound data of bovine follicles. Implications for the involved but not explicitly modeled hormones are discussed.