(Dan) Hey folks, welcome to DocTalk. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson. I’m here with Dr. Joel Anderson and we’re at Cross Country Genetics today. And I’m excited about the show cause we’re gonna talk about embryo transfer in beef cattle.
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(Dan) And Dr. Joel thanks for being with us. (Joel) Well thanks for having us. Glad to be a part of this and talk about embryo transfer. At Cross Country Genetics, as a company we are housed in home places here in Manhattan, Kansas, just north of Manhattan. We actually also have a clinic in Crescent, Oklahoma. We travel to about four to five states doing embryo transfer work. So, it’s kind of a delight for us to get to talk to you guys and kind of tell you what we do. (Dan) I think it’s one of those things that we’ve watched the improvement in technology throughout the decades, you know. And AI really took off and now we’re going to the next level and embryo transfer is just one of those tools that’s really catching fire and really becoming prominent in our quality herds. (Joel) And it’s really made a huge impact on the beef industry here in Kansas and you know I grew up in Ohio and it’s doing the same thing there. And it’s been really unique to go to bull sales. A lot of our customers are bull clients. And you know they’re really trying to produce a quality set of bulls that commercial guys can come in and purchase and embryo transfer has allowed them to really increase the amount of consistency that’s in those genetics. And it’s been really unique and really cool. (Dan) So talk to me a little bit about embryo transfer and just kind of what are the general stages. (Joel) So the embryo transfer process pretty much starts with the donor cow. She’s kind of the most important of the whole process and gets the ball really rolling. That requires somebody to determine which cow they want to use and as a cow, she has the opportunity to have multiple calves throughout her lifetime. As much as we’ve figured out how to tap into the genetics on the AI side and semen production bulls, cows also have a huge reserve of oocytes in their ovaries. The embryo transfer process allows us to harvest those oocytes as embryos, seven day old embryos and then transfer those. So we can take one cow that in her normal lifetime, normal production 10 to 12 calves, maybe 15 calves if she lasts a long time. We can easily do that or double that in one single year. So we get the opportunity for these cows to really impact the genetic pool and the genetic options of a particular herd. So that cow will come to us and we go through a synchronization standpoint that process at Cross Country Genetics takes about 30 to 31 days. She goes through a synchronization. We get her in the appropriate window of her follicular cycle. We introduce her to some follicle stimulating hormone, which is an FSH product that over about eight injections they go ahead and will stimulate those cows, we’ll inseminate ’em and then seven days later we’ll harvest the embryos. Those embryos then we can go ahead and transfer fresh into recipients or we can freeze ’em and they look like just normal AI straws at that point. They’re just in core CC straws that we can cryopreserve and as far as we know, they last forever. (Dan) So, you’ll go in and inseminate that cow after you flush her or after you get the eggs and then you’ll flush those embryos out and collect the embryos. (Joel) Yep. So it’s a multiple ovulation process. So instead of a single ovulation that most cows have, she will ovulate multiple oocytes and then we’ll fertilize multiple oocytes and we’ll retrieve those as embryos at seven days after she’s been in heat and after she’s been inseminated. She essentially could have a litter instead of a single calf. (Dan) Sounds like a sow, not a cow. (Joel) Yep. (Dan) Well let’s take a break. Folks, we’re gonna come back after commercial with Dr. Joel Anderson out here at Cross Country Genetics in Manhattan, Kansas. We’ll see you after these messages.
(Dan) Hey folks, Dr. Dan from DocTalk here. Thanks for joining us today. Our guest is Dr. Joel Anderson, here at Cross Country Genetics, and we’ve been talking about embryo transfer. It’s one of those things that’s made a huge impact on our industry and the people here at Cross Country Genetics. And Dr. Anderson does a wonderful job. And we left off with, we got ’em in the straw. OK? So we’re halfway home right? (Joel) Yep. So, we’ve collected the cow and come into a process and looks similar to what is here behind us with the microscope and the lab and that’s actually where we are today is sitting in our lab. So, we’ve got those embryos, we’ve evaluated them, at that point we make a decision whether to freeze those embryos or to transfer them fresh. And once we make that decision a lot of embryos, about 60 to 70 percent of the embryos in the industry are frozen. So the cryopreservation process is hugely important. So, we’ll freeze those embryos. They’re frozen in a quarter CC straw. Looks just like what you would get in a sec semen straw if you’d purchase that from any bull stud. And inside that straw is just one embryo. So that has the potential to make one calf. We’ll freeze those. We’ll put those straws, store ’em in liquid nitrogen. At that point we’ve got a producer that calls us up and says, we want to synchronize the setter recipients, we want to make some transfers. So those recipients will go through a normal synchronization like we would do for a timed AI or an AI event, period. We’ll record and check heats on those cows. We’ll come out seven days after they’ve been in heat. So, we’ve removed those embryos from a seven day uterus out of the donor and we’re gonna put ’em back into a seven day uterus in the recipient side. So, that heat detection, that record keeping is vital for our success and vital for our clients success. So, we show back up on the farm. We then take those embryos that we’ve frozen, cryopreserved. We’re gonna thaw them. Just in a manner that looks very similar to AI. We use a warm water bath. We don’t thaw them at quite the same temperature. It’s a little bit cooler water bath than semen. But we’ll thaw those embryos. The direct transfer process that uses ethylene glycol, which is our cryo protectant allows us to directly take those embryos and transfer them into a cow. So, some people may have started with embryos transfer quite a few years ago and we used to freeze ’em in glycerol. That required us setting up a scope when we went to the farm. That no longer happens. (Dan) So, you had to wash ’em out of that glycerol. (Joel) So, you had to dilute them out of the glycerol and allow those embryos to then be viable and productive. You couldn’t just transfer them straight out of the glycerol. So we go ahead and we’ll follow those embryos. We palpate the cows to evaluate whether or not they have a corpus luteum or a CL that’s present. We need that to be able to make the pregnancy. So, as a veterinarian I’m palpating cow, I’m telling whether or not this cow is gonna work, whether or not we’re gonna transfer. We’ll thaw an embryo. We’ll load a gun, looks very similar to an AI gun. We’ll make that transfer, it’s all nonsurgical. Deposit the embryo and she goes on and that’s the whole process. (Dan) Wow. What about picking recipient cows? What are some of the things you tell people about what cows to pick? (Joel) So, we get a wide variety. We get the sale barn cows, we get the heifers, we get old cows, we get the poor quality cows. It kind of varies and depends. But we like a young, middle aged cow that’s kind of stopped in her growth curve. She’s only worrying about lactating now. Those cows work really, really well for us. I’ve had a few people in my young career talk to me very much and say, our recipient animals make and break our embryo transfer program. A lot of people think about the donor, but it’s truly the recipients that can really make or break your embryo transfer program and really make it successful. (Dan) Cool. When we come back we’re gonna start talking about how you can incorporate embryo transfer into your herd, regardless of what type of herd or what type of program you have. You’re watching DocTalk and I’m sure glad you joined us.
(Dan) Hey folks, welcome back to DocTalk. Dr. Dan Thomson here with Dr. Joel Anderson. We’re at Cross Country Genetics, outside of Manhattan, Kansas. We’re talking about embryo transfer and we’ve gone through the process of embryo transfer and now there are different types of herds, with different ways they could participate in embryo transfer and so let’s start going through some of the scenarios that you work with. (Joel) We get a variety of clients that we work with in a variety of ways that we can incorporate embryo transfer into their program. One of the stepping stones, or one of the ways that a lot of people get introduced to embryo transfer is they decide…they go to a sale and they see a package of embryos and they call ’em. Then they call us and say what do we do with ’em next. So, that’s kind of one way that a lot of people get in is they purchase embryos through a sale. And then they want to put those into recipients and get those calves that they purchased those genetics. That’s kind of an easy way. All you need to do is have some recipients that you can set up. Like I said before, you know we just direct transfer those embryos, transfer ’em right in and it looks similar to AI. (Dan) Yep. (Joel) The other option is to go through the whole process of incorporating a donor cow. Most of our seed stock type operations, your pure bred operations, that’s who we work with on that side. They have a select set of animals. Kind of their upper echelon, or their top tier of cows that they really want to propagate those genetics. And then they use the rest of their cow herd as recipients to make those genetics valuable and flourish for them. So, that’s another option. That’s kind of what we consider a total or a complete embryo transfer program, is a set of donor, a set of recipients and we kind of do the whole thing on their place. The other option that you can get involved in embryo transfer is we work with quite a few of what we call cooperator herds. These are just commercial cow herds, commercial cows just the same as we’re gonna sell a weaned calf product at the end of the year. Maybe we’re gonna retain ownership. They’re out there, just selling a commodity product essentially at that point. What we do with them is they say, “You know we’d really like to gain a premium on our calves. And we’re always looking, what can we do to add value to our calves?” So we’ll come in, we’ll pair them with a seed stock producer, and we’ve always got seed stock producers that are looking for cows to put embryos in to. (Dan) Right. (Joel) They come to us and say, “We’d really like to make some transfers. We’d like to get some extra value out of these calves.” So, we’ll go in, we’ll work with that cooperator herd, we’ll help them with their synchronization, we’ll help them with their cow management, organize and orchestrate that whole process between the seed stock producer and them as well. We kind of help both parties as that to make it as successful a day as possible for all of us involved. And we’ll just show up and we’ll transfer embryos. So they synchronize cows, they heat check for us, and we show up seven days later and put ’em in. (Dan) So, how do they…how do a lot of the financials work with like a cooperator herd. (Joel) So, that varies and it’s unique with each opportunity. I’ve been exposed to some places where guys really want bulls. So, they’ll put embryos in and they’ll say, you guys can keep a select set of the heifers and retain those as replacements in your cow herd. That gives us commercial producers an opportunity to access some valuable genetics that they can keep back as heifers. And the bull customer, the bull client that we have that really wants to add bulls to their bull sale, gets what they want as well. They get more transfers made, more calves, can add that to their bull sale. The other option is if some of the pricing schedule is just go on steer price at the end of the year and then add a premium. So, it’s a weaned calf, the seed stock producer or the supplier of the embryo just buys all the calves back and they do with them what they see fit. It varies from place to place. It also varies on how the pricing structure’s done. And it depends on the producer. (Dan) Sounds good. Well folks we’re gonna take a break. It’s been a wonderful show. Dr. Joel Anderson, Cross Country Genetics. We’re gonna take a break, when we come back we’ll wrap up out here north of Manhattan, Kansas. Thanks for watching.
(Dan) Hey folks, welcome back to DocTalk. Dr. Dan Thomson here with Dr. Joel Anderson. We’re out at Cross Country Genetics. We’re sure glad you joined us today. We’ve had a great show talking about embryo transfer and you know as we were talking during the break, there’s some general statistics that you go through with your clients as you set these types of procedures up. And let just kind of go through some of the expectations. (Joel) So, one of the biggest questions we get a lot of times when people want to venture in to embryo transfer is what do I expect? How many embryos am I gonna end up in a donor cow? How many pregnancies am I gonna generate? Those are very common questions that we receive. The one thing that I always temper all these discussions with is, we’re working with biological systems. It’s not like the auto mechanic shop. There’s really no black and white in what we deal with. But we do have a set of averages that kind of guide our clients and guide our decision making and guide whether or not we’re being productive at what we’re doing. So, as an average across essentially the entire United States and across the world, you’re gonna expect about six to seven, seven to eight viable embryos per collection. And that’s speaking beef cattle. Dairy cattle’s gonna be a little bit less. But we tell clients to expect seven to eight viable embryos per collection. Clearly an average. Some cows are single egg producers. Some of ’em you get 20 to 30 in a collection. So, it just varies. But we kind of expect about seven. We look at the recipient side and people want to say, well how many pregnancies am I gonna generate? And we tell clients on frozen embryos we would expect those to perform 50-60 percent. (Dan) OK. (Joel) So, 50-60 percent of the transfers that you make should result in babies. On the fresh side, and that’s with frozen embryo transfer, if we go ahead and transfer them fresh and they don’t go through the cryopreservation process we expect an increase in about 10 percent. So 60 to 70 percent of the transfers that we make should result in live calves. The other kind of standard in metric that we kind of talk about a lot, especially with our commercial producers that are looking at working on as a cooperator herd, is we really strive to be able to come in and we think in one transfer event, we’d like for them to be able to have 50 percent of the calves born to be ET out of one transfer event. That’s kind of our metric. It’s a challenge to reach that, but that looks at synchronizing cows, realizing we’re going to get 80, hopefully better than 80 percent, 80-90 percent of ’em into heat. And then we hope to transfer to about 90 percent of ’em. And then if we look at that 50-60 percent we can really have a chance. And one transfer event, one round of transfer is to make 50 percent of the cows they set up have an ET calf. (Dan) So, then you’re gonna come in early and ultrasound and confirm pregnancy, so if they don’t take, you can get those cows bred. (Joel) Yep. And we actually have an opportunity where a lot of clients we go to every three weeks. So, we can do a resynchronization process. We’ll seeder those cows that we transfer to. We’ll pull seeders. We’ll watch return heats off of those cows and we can transfer to ’em again. So, some of our clients, we’ll transfer three rounds a year and make ’em a lot of embryo transfer calves. (Dan) I’ll bet. Well thanks for being on the show. And thanks for the service that you’re providing out here to folks in Kansas and Oklahoma and the four or five state region that you all travel. (Joel) Yep. (Dan) And thanks for all you do for K-State, letting us have our students bop around too. (Joel) Not a problem, not a problem. We really appreciate it. (Dan) Thanks for watching DocTalk. If you want to know more about what I do at Kansas State University, you can find us on the web at www.vet.ksu.edu. Remember always work with your local veterinarian. Thanks for watching DocTalk today. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson and I’ll see you down the road.
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