Practical Strategies Which Can Be Used to Enhance Embryo Survival Rates

Post Date: September 6, 2012
Egg Surrounded by Cumulus Cells
We are often asked how to increase embryo survival rates. Below are several practical strategies which can be used. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us.

  1. Make sure your cattle are getting proper nutrition. Palatable dry matter containing high energy is essential, without the latter CLs on the ovaries tend to disappear before the end of the first cycle terminating the early pregnancy. This occurs especially when grass is in the spring flush. Ensure clean water and watch for algae in times of drought.
  2. A comprehensive vaccination program is also essential, covering the clostridia family of diseases and the respiratory complex of diseases. Plus you may have some additional diseases to cover specific to your area. Discuss this subject with your veterinarian.
  3. Body condition is significant, donors and recipients should not be too fat or too thin-obvious you are probably thinking, but quite frequently donors and recipients are not in the optimum condition when prepared for embryo transfer procedures. They should have a body score of around 6.
  4. Do not reduce feed during the embryo transfer program. I have observed frequently donors placed in a new situation with new cows and a different feeding protocol. Not only are the digestive processes upset, the donor has to establish a new peck order.
  5. Avoid excessive proteins. This can occur when high protein supplements are fed as an additive to an already optimum protein level.
  6. Make sure your heat detection methods are efficient. Remember especially in hot weather 60% of the heat signs occur at night. Poor heat detection can lead to lack of fertilization of the eggs and/or poor quality embryos. One of the most useful, efficient and economical methods of detecting standing heat is the application of a thin line of pressure pack paint on the tail head. The best colors are, fire engine red and incandescent orange. Use a can of marking spray-paint, (the type used by surveyors).
  7. Use high quality semen. Beware of using semen which has passed through several different operators. Our early experiments demonstrated that two inseminations using one dose of semen each time is sufficient. In fact with very valuable semen we have over the years used only one dose of semen on a superovulated donor, 20 to 24 hours after first standing heat. The last time we followed this protocol 13 number one embryos were recovered.
  8. Shade is essential in hot humid weather and when conditions are like this work the cattle at first light and/or just before dark. Remember in the latter case cows do not cool down until around 3am, so it is always wise to do the bulk of the cattle work just after dawn.
  9. If you are dealing with heifers make sure they are cycling regularly before attempting synchronizing procedures. Remember if they are Brahman/zebu crossed with Bos Taurus breeds they take longer to mature usually. Ensure the heifers are well grown if you intend to use them as recipients-there is nothing worse than pulling calves from young females with consequential mothering-up problems, low quality colostrom and sickly calves.
  10. Select sires carefully, bearing in mind proven production and fertility of offspring. Since we are all in this business to make a decent living a thorough knowledge of which bull on which cow will make embryos and calves popular in the market place resulting in profits.
  11. Good records need to be accurate and up to date. Design a system which is quick and easy especially when recording data by the chute, this is important since the person doing the recording usually has many other jobs. Since donors respond very differently to the hormone treatments used for embryo transfer it is essential to record every detail of the procedures and their outcome.
Dr. Peter Elsden

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"The majority of our insight to embryo transfer is definitely accredited to Dr. Peter Elsden. The pragmatic experiences and personal attention offered through The International Embryo Transfer School are highly commendable."… "An example of the benefits to our embryo transfer program, made possible by The International Embryo Transfer School, is a cow that produces embryos for only $20 a piece. Each embryo is valued at $1,500 or more! We hold Dr. Peter Elsden and International Embryo Transfer School with our highest regard, as they are largely responsible for our accomplishments."
Bob & Robin Stevenson
Stevenson Angus Ranch

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