Embryo transfers: seedstock producers’ new addiction

Seedstock producers build calf numbers

Beef
Embryo success: Ben Adams, Dangarfield, Taroom, said the reward of producing consistent top quality progeny via embryo transfers made the hard work and long hours worthwhile.

Embryo success: Ben Adams, Dangarfield, Taroom, said the reward of producing consistent top quality progeny via embryo transfers made the hard work and long hours worthwhile.

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Seedstock producer Ben Adams, Dangarfield, Taroom, has implemented an embryo transfer process within his herd to maximise his breeding potential.

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The thrill of producing multiple top sires and consistent lines of heifers has seedstock producers describing embryo transfer programs as their newest addiction.

One such producer is Ben Adams, Dangarfield Santa Gertrudis stud, Taroom, who recently completed his seventh program in just over two years and said while there were occasional outliers in the quality scale, the results had been pleasing.

“It’s a three year commitment before you see any return. We’ve just started selling our first ET (embryo transfer) yearling bulls and we’re confident we’ll well and truly make money,” he said.

“We’ve been excited with most of the progeny and I count success as something I can market or a female I can breed from- when you get it right it’s very rewarding.”

Mr Adams said he started the program in response to back to back drought years and their decline in numbers while also wanting to multiply the elite end of their herd.

“We can produce more calves out of a cow 10 years and older that she couldn’t have naturally had herself, multiplying the genetics that have stood the test of time,” he said.

“One particular cow here had four calves naturally but she’s got 20 progeny recorded to her via embryo recipients before she will turn eight years of age.”

Mr Adams was at the end of his most recent transfer program and said he and his team had been working “around the clock” for accuracy.

“The donor cows were started on hormone treatment 10 days ago so instead of releasing one egg they release a bunch,” he said.

“When they cycle we artificially inseminate them and seven days later Ced turns up.”

Bovine reproduction specialist Ced Wise, Stanthorpe, was carrying out the program at Dangarfield when Queensland Country Life visited and said timing was crucial for a good result.

At work: Donor cows receive an epidural to enable bovine reproduction specialist Ced Wise, Stanthorpe, to flush embryos effectively, with Ben Adams, Taroom, assisting.

At work: Donor cows receive an epidural to enable bovine reproduction specialist Ced Wise, Stanthorpe, to flush embryos effectively, with Ben Adams, Taroom, assisting.

“Recipient cows are watched closely in one yard and when a cow cycles she’s matched with a donor whose embryos have been flushed,” he said.

“This time we’ve used 64 recipient cows and 62 of them cycled quickly in a cluster group and that was really good, the closer they cycle the better it is for us- it means fewer all-nighters.

“Donor cows produce multiple embryos and multiple can be two to 50, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get 50 transferable embryos.”

Mr Adams said he aimed to average four embryos per donor although some donor cows produced many more and some less.

“One cow gave 47 embryos with only one of B grade which have to be transferred fresh,” he said.

“In that case we made a judgement call and decided to discard the B grade embryo and freeze the rest as it was a lesser quality embryo and we had so many anyway.

“It allows us to stockpile a heap of embryos for another transfer round in November.”

Mr Adams said he had achieved his minimum goal to fill the recipient cows and freeze embryos for future use in the current transfer cycle.

“It comes down to an economy of scale and trying to punch out as many calves as possible,” he said.

“If we can average 60 per cent conception and 150 embryo transfer pregnancies for a year’s work, we’re doing pretty well in achieving our minimum goal but we hope to get a little better than that.”

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