The word is out, in vitro embryo production (IVP) is on the up and multiple ovulation embryo transfer (MOET) is declining, but what’s causing this trend, and what are the benefits of making the switch to this increasingly popular technology?
Out with the old…
MOET is currently the most popular method for producing large numbers of high quality bovine embryos in both the meat and dairy industries. The practice involves super-stimulation of a donor cow, followed by artificial insemination and then flushing to remove the embryos, which are then transferred into recipient animals.
In with the new…
In IVP on the other hand, immature oocytes are collected from the donor animal, matured, fertilised and cultured in a laboratory over several days, before being transferred into the recipients. Think of it like an old landline phone compared to a smart phone, they both still serve the same core purpose (phone calls / embryo production) but the newer technology opens up so many more doors (apps and texting / increased flexibility, selection intensity and progeny numbers etc.).
Increased Progeny Numbers
With IVP an increased number of offspring can be produced within a shorter timeframe, as the switch from flushing to ovum pick-up (OPU) means the oocytes can be collected as often as once a week, versus the once a month flush common with MOET. Indeed, commercial groups have reported producing 3-5x more calves per month with IVP.
On top of this, the technique opens up collection options from a much wider group of donors, including juvenile heifers, older and pregnant donors. You can even salvage the genetics of your premium/rare livestock post-slaughter using IVP.
Reduced Hormone Reliance
The standard super-stimulation treatments used in MOET have been shown to affect lactation ability, with a knock-on impact on your milk yields. As most IVP practitioners don’t treat their livestock with hormones, this risk is significantly reduced.
Less Semen Cost
IVP requires much less semen per fertilisation, and therefore allows users to source premium bull sperm with specific traits to vastly improve their herd’s genetics. In addition to this, if you intend to skew your sex ratio; IVP improves the efficiency of using sex-sorted semen.
The future is certainly looking bright for this young technology, especially when coupled with genetic testing to determine the sex and (more importantly) the estimated breeding value (EBV) of the embryo. With this powerful combination, practitioners can really boost their selection intensity, creating many more superior calves from high genetic value animals within a shorter time frame.