Despite being around since the 1980’s, artificial breeding methods have not always been a commercially viable option for livestock producers. Alex Robinson finds out if a new In-Vitro Embryo Production (IVP) service for cattle can benefit UK producers.
Established in March 2015, Specialist breeding innovators Animal Breeding (AB) Europe is the daughter organisation of New Zealand based Animal Breeding Services’ and Innovis Breeding Services UK, and was founded with the aim of introducing cutting edge fertilization technology to the UK agriculture sector.
Speaking at a service launch, AB Europe’s embryologist Dania Harris discussed how IPV has become a commonplace procedure in the New Zealand cattle sector, and the company can account for over 4,000 annual embryo transfers.
“The development of IVP as a globally established procedure is largely due to the genomic potential it can offer breeders”, said Ms Harris. “The process combines donor oocyte (egg) collection, maturation and fertilisation, followed by a culture period and then either transfer or freezing of subsequent embryos.
We believe that this is destined to replace traditional Multiple Ovulation Embryo Transfer (MOET) methods and will enable cattle breeders to exploit the value of their high genetic merit animals.”
AB Europe emphasise the benefits of being able to collect unfertilized eggs on farm, which can significantly reduce the stress levels of the donor cow.
Whilst eggs can be collected once a maximum of once per month in MOET, IVP collection can be done on a weekly basis. One flush is performed per session as appose to the 10 to 14 needed in MOET, claiming to improve the welfare conditions of the animal.
AB Europe vet Gavin Tait also noted how IVP allows for eggs to be taken from pregnant cows, a practice not possible in current MOET procedures.
He contined: “The oocyte collection from the ovaries is relatively quick taking approximately 15 minutes per donor, and requires minimal handling from the technician. IVP uses no ovulatory drugs and no donor programme line up, making it welfare friendly and cost effective”.
It is also claimed that IVP services can make rare or expensive semen go further, with the potential for one straw to cover up to four embryos, as eggs are fertilized in collected groups.
The average embryo production of 12 – 15 per month also suggests breeding variation can be explored, by allowing farmers to be flexible when making genetic choices.
Mr Tait summarized: “We are pleased to offer IVP to accelerate embryo production especially from the UK’s superior animals to ultimately increase genetic gain”.
At present the success rate of IVP is relatively similar to MOET, with a pregnancy hold rate of 65 per cent and 60 per cent respectively. When working with frozen embryos there is a narrower margin in IPV procedures, with a 45 per cent hold rate.
AB Europe claim when taking into consideration the 50 to 60 per cent success rate, the cost of collecting the unfertilized oocytes costs around £300 per donor cow. This figure excludes the cost of freezing the eggs and implanting the developed embryos in a surrogate.
|The question||In-Vitro Embryo production (IVF)||Multiple Ovulation Embryo Transfer (MOET)|
|How many collections can be done per month?||Four||One|
|How many semen straws are used per donor cow?||One||Three to five|
|Can pregnant cows be collected from?||Yes||No|
|How long after calving can a cow be collected from?||Four weeks||Eight weeks|
|What is the current pregnancy hold rate when using fresh embryos?||65 per cent||60 per cent|
|What is the current pregnancy hold rate when using frozen embryos?||40 - 45 per cent||50 per cent|
|Cost of veterinary drugs||£0||£100+|
|How many times will the donor cow be handled each collection?||Once||About 13 times|
Source: AV Europe