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Reproductive strategies for dairy herd improvement – MOET or OPU-IVF?

Contributed by Lauren Kimble Published on 11 March 2020

Producers can capitalize on available reproductive technologies to breed efficient, profitable cows. Multiple ovulation-embryo transfer (MOET) and ovum pick-up and in-vitro fertilization (OPU-IVF) are two such technologies that offer producers the ability to obtain offspring from high net merit females and bulls to achieve faster genetic progress.

MOET is your typical superovulation and embryo flush protocol completed in non-pregnant heifers and cows every 60 days. OPU-IVF involves technical expertise in ovum harvesting and laboratory expertise in ovum maturation and fertilization and embryo culture. As indicated in Table 1, OPU-IVF can generate three to four times more transferable embryos than MOET. Also, OPU can be completed more frequently, usually every one to two weeks, and it can be completed on prepubertal heifers and pregnant donors.

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Figure 1

However, there are some limitations associated with the OPU-IVF process. Ovum pick-up may affect subsequent ability for cattle to ovulate naturally, although numerous OPU events can be completed before donor fertility is compromised. Another problem is that OPU-IVF embryos are less tolerant to freezing, so fresh embryos are preferred for transfer over frozen embryos.

The cost of freezing embryos and transferring embryos are similar between the two systems ($50-$75 per embryo for each service), but other cost considerations differ between these systems (Table 1). The follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) stimulation and other drugs cost approximately $300 per superovulation. Also included are costs for elite net merit semen ($120) and embryo recovery costs ($300). Thus, with an average of five transferrable embryos recovered from the flush, your cost per embryo is $150. For OPU-IVF, less FSH stimulation is achieved (approximately one-half the cost), and in some cases, no FSH stimulation is completed. However, technical expertise with OPU is expensive ($300 per donor), and the IVF process costs upwards of $400. After adding one to two units of semen, your price per embryo can exceed $200.

Thus, the protocol you choose will depend largely on the genetic goals for your herd. If your top net merit females have significantly greater indexes than the rest of the herd, then using OPU-IVF could rapidly amplify the genetics of your herd in just a few years. By receiving three to four times more embryos from OPU-IVF, a greater proportion of your herd could receive these high genetic merit embryos than if you used MOET. However, if the net merit of your herd is fairly similar between the top and bottom groups, or if you don’t have enough suitable recipients to handle fresh transfer of IVF embryos, perhaps MOET should be considered so you can take advantage of the lower cost per embryo and the ability to freeze away unused embryos for future use.

Regardless of the method you choose, the promise of accelerated genetic progress and profitability can be realized when using either reproductive technology.  end mark

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—From Dairy Pipeline, Virginia Cooperative Extension

Lauren Kimble
  • Lauren Kimble

  • Dairy Sire Development Intern
  • Select Sires Inc.
  • Email Lauren Kimble

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