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Increase your herd’s efficiency and profitability with IVF

Melissa Bowers Published on 30 April 2015

Today, dairies of all sizes everywhere are looking for tools that maximize both efficiency and profitability. One of the fastest ways to accomplish both while making rapid genetic and reproductive improvement is with in vitro fertilization (IVF).

In the past, IVF was seen as a fairly expensive procedure meant only for elite individuals, those that did not respond to conventional flushing methods or those cows with fertility issues.

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Over the last few years, important research advancements of this powerful technology have dramatically increased IVF performance while decreasing its cost.

All herd sizes can now use IVF as part of a genetic strategy to rapidly increase their herd’s genetic level, increase their reproductive efficiencies and the overall number of heifer calves born from top females.

Additionally, IVF is a great tool for those looking to merchandise genetics, whether it’s through females, males or embryos.

What is IVF?

IVF is a procedure where a veterinarian or trained technician uses an ultrasound-guided needle and vacuum system to aspirate follicles off a cow’s ovaries.

This procedure is called ovum pick-up (OPU). The collected fluid, including the oocytes (or eggs), is taken to a lab where the oocytes are recovered, washed and placed into a special maturation media, growing them over a 24-hour period before they are fertilized.

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Once the embryos mature and grow in an incubator for seven days, they are ready to be transferred fresh or frozen to recipient animals.

How can IVF work for you?

The first step is to select your top females that will make up your donor group by using available tools and resources. In turn, these same tools and resources will also help you identify your bottom group that will serve as your recipient group.

Next, look closely at your donor group and select those individuals that have the physiological potential to be good donors that give quality oocytes.

This ensures you will maximize embryo numbers, but more importantly, pregnancies per IVF cycle. A veterinarian trained in OPU is a good resource in this selection.

Benefits of IVF

Not only can IVF help you reach your genetic goals faster, it can also increase your reproductive efficiencies. Users of IVF benefit from higher conception rates, notably so during periods of heat stress.

IVF also gives you the option of working with heifers as young as 7 months old. And, unlike conventional in vivo flushing, IVF can be used into the first stages of pregnancy and will not decrease the individual’s productivity or increase her days open.

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With an IVF cycle able to be performed every two weeks, you could quickly get your recipients working harder for you. As recipients for your best cows, they would raise your herd’s profitability and genetic level and show a fast return on investment.

Many producers have found sexed semen to be extremely beneficial when using IVF. Results show that more than six times the number of female pregnancies can be obtained by using sexed versus conventional semen in IVF.

Producers throughout North America can also benefit from the relatively new and increasing number of satellite OPU facilities coast to coast. These facilities allow donors to remain on-farm, eliminating the expense of a donor facility, while taking advantage of all the technology has to offer.

Put IVF to work and multiply your success

Using the correct tools and making informed decisions that maximize the number of pregnancies per IVF cycle or OPU performed is how this technology will show you return on your investment and will bring your herd to the next level.  PD

Melissa Bowers
  • Melissa Bowers
  • Embryo Program Manager
  • Semex and Boviteq

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