We’ve Come A Long Way, Baby

Ya know, we sure have come a long way in techniques used around the farm for reproduction.

 It’s just simply amazing what all we can accomplish by combining genetics, knowledge and technology. Almost mind-boggling at times even. What specifically I have on my mind is embryo transfer.

I mean, sure, there were many times that a farmer probably thought to himself, “If only there was a way to get more calves from this cow in her lifetime”, but who went through the trial and error to figure it out?

I’m sure a little research could answer this pressing question, but today we are simply going to talk about the process.

First, a teensy vocab lesson.

Donor- A female bovine of exceptional quality. This is typically a cow. Flushing heifers could potentially lead to breeding issues in the future.

Flushing- The process of collecting all the fertilized eggs from the Donor.

….I know, just stay with me here.

Estrus- A 12 hour window when the cow is in heat, or ovulating.

Estrous- The cycle as a whole, which lasts about 21 days. Note the similar yet different spellings of these words. There is a difference between the two.

Cystorelin- Hormone used to start the process over, or get the estrous cycle back to ‘square one’.

CIDR- Insert infused with progesterone. Read more about these puppies HERE.

Follicle Stimulating Hormone- Causes multiple eggs to be released during estrus. FSH for short.

Lutalyse- Shot that causes the cow to come into heat.

Angus- A breed. The black cow in the picture.

Hereford- Another breed. The red and black calf in the picture.

Setting up the Donor:

Day 1- Give a shot of Cystorelin and put the CIDR in the cow. Together, this will cause estrous to start over and hormone levels to raise so the female’s body think’s it is pregnant.

Day 5- Start FSH shots. 2 shots a day for 3 1/2 days. This causes multiple follicles to form on the ovaries, when there would typically only be one.

Day 7- Administer a shot of Lutalyse in addition to the FSH shots.

Day 8- Remove CIDR and give last FSH shot. The removal of the CIDR will drop progesterone levels and therefore kick-start estrus.

Day 9- Breed the cow 3 times. 1. At the start of heat. 2. 12 hours into heat. 3. 24 hours into heat.

This is Terry. He just became a Grandpa a few weeks ago. And he brought a Hereford cow to our place to get set up with ours.

One week later… An embryologist will ‘flush’ out all the fertilized eggs, or embryos. The average number collected is 6. The embryos can be put fresh into a recipient cow, or be frozen and stored in liquid nitrogen until ready for use.

Yes, reproduction techniques have come a long way, baby.

9 months later… Your babies are born! This is the rewarding part, when all your hard work pays off.

When you walk out into a pasture and see baby calves everywhere, you have one of those ‘moments’ that reminds you why you are in the ag business. Why your pay check is largely determined by mother nature and Futures markets. Why you don’t get holidays or snow days. It reminds you why you love this way of life and that you wouldn’t trade it for anything.

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