In the past, most cattle breeders relied on natural breeding to produce calves. But times have changed.
Embryo transfer technology has revolutionized the breeding strategies, and if cattle producers are going to feed 9 billion people by 2050, there is no way they can rely on traditional breeding techniques.
The commercialization of genetically engineered cattle embryos has been around for years, and cattle rancher Daniel Wendland says less than 2 percent of cattlemen in the state of Texas give animal-breeding a try and do it on a day-to-day process.
"The main reason for going to this process is you get a very high percentage of very high quality calves of embryo work. Eighty percent of the calves you get are going to be exactly what you are looking for or real close to it. To an artificial insemination there is about 20 percent of the time it happens, and natural birth, it is every now and then," said cattle rancher Daniel Wendland.
Embryo transfer technology allows producers to select traits they like from a particular breed and add it to their breed of cattle. It means single trait selection can be done without sacrificing production goals.
"If you hire someone else to do it, it will cost you anywhere from $1,000-$5,000 a calf to do this. We do it ourselves. We can do it for $150-$175 a calf. The purebred industry is going to it faster and faster because it is so predictable. You can get exactly what you are looking for," said Wendland.
One of the keys to this procedure’s success is the ability to provide a more economic embryo-transfer procedure with fewer complications.
"It takes a lot of time to figure out the ins and outs of the process before you actually get it down to where it works very well," said Wendland.
The process can be time consuming and costly. But Wendland, who has taken advantage of this relatively simple science to produce more calves for 15 years, says it can pay off in the long run.
"In the long run, the consumers are getting a very top end product, and we are producing cattle that live their whole lives in production, not necessarily just for slaughter," said Wendland.
Now, elite-cattle breeders and commercial beef and dairy producers use ET to reproduce dozens of calves a year from their genetically superior heifers, who never actually have to birth a single calf.
Surrogates carry the embryos to term.
Knowing the genetic value of calves so early in their lives allows farmers to select a calf and then work it into an advanced reproduction program with in vitro fertilization within nine months.
WHAT IS EMBRYO TRANSFER?
Embryo Transfer is basically, multiple injections of hormone to stimulate and multiply the ovulations in the cow that you want to get the embryos from.
- The donor cow is inseminated at normal time but 12 hours apart and 3-4 times
- Seven (7) days later the rinsing out of the uterus to extract the embryos and ova (unfertilized, fertilized or degenerate)
- Isolation of the good embryos using a microscope and then transfer into the recipient cows or frozen.
BENEFITS OF EMBRYO TRANSFER FOR FARMERS
Basically it multiplies the offspring of the farmers best animals. Farmers can use their best bulls over their best cow or heifer and get a good calf whereas now the farmer can run an embryo program and possibly get a life times’ production with one flush.