Understanding and Utilizing Advanced Reproductive Technologies
Improving the next generation is a common goal of many livestock producers. Unfortunately, in the cattle industry, with longer gestation times and, typically, one calf per parity, it can take many years to see the widespread impact that an elite female can have on your operation. Fortunately, through the growing use of advanced technologies like embryo transfer and in-vitro fertilization, we can mass-produce embryos and transfer them into a recipient female, who will give birth to and raise a calf from the desired mating. This enables us as producers to see the impact of certain cow families on a much larger and faster scale.
The difference between conventional embryo transfer and in-vitro fertilization
Conventional embryo transfer utilizes a follicle-stimulating hormone protocol on donors that causes multiple follicles to ovulate. Donors are bred by artificial insemination (AI), usually using multiple straws after superovulation. Seven days after the donor is artificially inseminated, embryos are “flushed” from the donor’s uterus. These embryos are either transferred fresh into recipient females or are frozen to be sold or transferred later.
A technology that is growing in popularity is in-vitro fertilization (IVF). The IVF process starts with the collection of oocytes, which are unfertilized eggs, through the aspiration of the ovaries of the donor. The viable oocytes are recovered and subsequently placed into a petri dish and fertilized one day after aspiration. Fertilized oocytes are placed into an incubator within seven days following fertilization. The oocytes are grown in a special media that features a temperature and environment that mimic the uterus. After this eight-day process, the oocytes that fully develop into viable embryos are either transferred into recipient females or are frozen, much like what happens with conventional embryo transfer.
Utilizing these advanced technologies does lead to an added cost of production, and the success rates can vary based on the cows involved, as well as the particulars of the operation and the year. Although there may be some environmental factors that are beyond your control, outlined below are some steps you can take to help increase your chances of success when utilizing reproductive technologies.
Donor and recipient selection
The features that constitute a good donor female can vary from operation to operation. Focusing on your goals and what type of cattle you offer can help lead you to your next prospective donor. An elite phenotype, a curve-bending EPD profile, excellent on-farm records and/or a consistent pedigree are all factors that producers consider when choosing their donor females.
Recipients are the surrogate mothers for the donor cows’ calves. Although recipients are typically of less genetic value than donors, they still play a large role in the success of an ET program. A heightened focus on body condition scores, as well as on important female traits — such as udder and feet quality, docility and fleshing ability — can have a huge impact on the success of your transfer rate at your 60-day pregnancy check.
Implementing a good nutrition program is key in all types of cattle production, but especially for ensuring reproductive success in the cow-calf sector. Unsurprisingly, proper nutrition is an important factor in the success of an advanced reproductive program. Both the donor and the recipient female play a major role in the success of the flush, so producers must focus on nutrition programs for both of these animals. For the best results, try to get both the donor and the recipient on an upward plane of nutrition as you head into flushing/aspiration and transfer time. Donors’ and recipients' ideal body condition score should range between a 4 and a 6.
Mineral and vitamin deficiencies can be detrimental to reproductive success, which is why producers should focus on implementing a strong mineral program when using advanced reproductive technologies. The macro-mineral phosphorus and the trace minerals copper, zinc, selenium and manganese are all extremely important for cattle reproduction, along with vitamins A and E.
The Blueprint® line of solutions from CRYSTALYX® is leading the way in mineral supplementation by utilizing 100% organic trace minerals in the form of Bioplex®. By only using Bioplex® organic trace minerals, the Blueprint® line allows producers to provide these minerals at lower levels, thereby avoiding the antagonisms that are often associated with the over-supplementation of inorganic trace minerals. Organic trace minerals are also better absorbed and utilized by the animal and contribute to the establishment of an ideal trace mineral status, which is necessary for reproductive efficiency.
Advanced reproductive technologies can help jumpstart your operation. Taking the time to evaluate your donors and recipients — and starting them on a high-end nutrition and mineral program, such as CRYSTALYX® Blueprint — will be a good way to ensure that your investment will be successful in the future.
Reference: EtvsIVF_SR.pdf (transova.com)