Life on the Ranch
We have spent the past 55 years advancing the genetics of our Registered Black Angus seed stock herd through buying top ranking herd bulls and using AI (artificial insemination) to bring in top bull genetics and pedigrees. Recently an opportunity presented itself to give embryo transfer (ET) a try. We hope to multiply the reproductive ability of our top dams who carry traits in the top 1% of the Angus breed.
We selected one of our top dams, VHAR Den Mya’s Daisy 104, for our first embryo transfer. (To see her EPD’s and Angus rankings click her name). She ranks in the top 1% of the Angus breed for 6 traits and top 2% for 2 traits. In 2016, she weaned a 1030+ lb bull calf, just for perspective, most calves wean between 500-800 lbs. He is one amazing bull. You can see his EPD’s here – VHAR Breakthrough 306. They are both such easy keepers, we joke that they could gain weight just by breathing. For this flush we AI’d her to Baldridge Bronc, the top selling bull from Baldridge’s 2016 bull sale, selling for $157,500.
Truthfully, the first time we tried the super-ovulation procedure, it did not work. The timing of the first lutalyse shot coincided wrong with where she was currently at in her natural cycle, and she did not cycle on the schedule. So the second time we used a heat patch, put her with the gomer bull, and waited for a natural heat. The vet then made the ET schedule off her natural cycle. The results turned out better then we expected! Here is a little bit of the process:
This is the embryo catching dish, there is a screen with holes that are 1/2 the size of an embryo, so the excess flushing fluid drains out and the embryos stay in the fluid at the bottom of the dish. At this point we were crossing our fingers that there were at least a few good embryo’s.
This is the same embryo dish, the vet looks at it under his microscope, finds the microscopic embryos and moves them into a smaller dish. After 8 embryos he stopped counting, likely because we were asking a lot of questions about the process.
All the embryos are counted and graded. Any embryo that did not fully or correctly develop is put into a different dish, and the good embryo’s are given a number grade, 1 being “excellent”. You can read more about embryo grading here.
Then, they are placed in a special solution for freezing, and drawn up into a straw. Air is also drawn into the straw, there are 5 separate columns of liquid, separated by pockets of air – the center one holds the embryo.
Next the straws go into a special cooling unit….
A lid is placed over them and the unit controls the freezing temperatures of the liquid nitrogen and cools the embryos at 1/2 a degree per minute until it reaches around -34 degrees.
On average, you will get 5-8 good embryos per flush but this flush was above average…
16 Grade 1 Embryos!
We were very happy with these results. And it makes one think: if the average cow gives 5-8 embryos when her natural cycle is disrupted and re-started to be on a specific schedule… could there be a scientific correlation with the possibility that setting the schedule to work with her natural cycle might make it possible for her to ovulate more eggs? Maybe, maybe not? If you know or have seen some research on this please mention it in the comments below, I am interested in learning more.
Lastly the straws are dipped in liquid nitrogen, placed in the cane, and put into the liquid nitrogen tank, which will keep them safe until spring when we begin our breeding program.
I ran the projected EPD’s of these embryos in AIMS and WOW these have the makings of some amazing calves!
The day after, embryo’s that were sired by the same sire, Baldridge Bronc, went up for auction on DVAuction, they sold for over $550 per embryo, (which on average only has a 50% conception rate).
We look forward to seeing what these live calves will look like and what interest there will be in them.
There you are – a peek into our 1st Embryo Transfer. Hope you learned something new, we sure did. Check back soon and we’ll have some information about our next ET round. Same great cow, VHAR Den Mya’s Daisy 104, but this sire will be Baldridge Colonel, the $580,000 top bull from last months Baldridge bull sale.
Until next time, may the weather warm up a bit and your animals stay warm.
~ CJ DeFriez
Chelsea here, I'm the Ranchers daughter. Growing up my favorite place to be was outside working with the cattle. I earned my Bachelors in Animal Science; genetics and cattle reproduction were my favorite subjects. While at school I meet my sweetheart and we spent the next 12 years building our family of 6 children and getting my husbands education and career going. Now we are back (HOORAY!) and I love helping on the ranch, in the office, mostly working with the cows... and (to my fathers chagrin) some Rambuillet sheep, miniature horses and chickens that we added for the kiddos.