New breeding system provides improved welfare for livestock

A new, more welfare-friendly system for accelerating production of elite livestock could be set to challenge the multiple ovulation embryo transplant (MOET) system often used by top pedigree cattle breeders.

The IVP system accelerates embryo production from donor cows, said Gavin Tait. Picture: John Devlin

An in-vitro embryo production (IVP) service has been launched for UK cattle breeders by specialist artificial breeding technology company AB Europe after proving to be major success in New Zealand, where the procedure is currently used to transfer more than 4,000 embryos each year.

The company, based outside Edinburgh, uses a process which combines donor egg collection, maturation and “test-tube” fertilisation, followed by a culture period and then either transfer to recipient cows or freezing of subsequent embryos.

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AB Europe’s vet and Borders farmer Gavin Tait said that IVP delivered all the benefits of MOET in enabling cattle breeders to exploit the value of their high genetic merit animals.

“However, it has many more advantages which in turn result in IVP being a more cost-effective and welfare-friendly service. IVP accelerates embryo production from donor cows, whilst pregnancy hold rates for both fresh and frozen embryos is relatively similar for both techniques,” he said.

Tait added that the system required far less handling of donor cows and also did away with the need to treat them with hormone injections.

“While MOET might require a cow to be handled more than a dozen times, we can collect eggs with only one minor procedure which requires only a simple epidural.”