Embryo production in cattle has changed dramatically in the last couple of decades, and its use will likely increase since now producers can better predict animal performance with the use of genomics.
In addition, a growing body of scientific literature indicates that embryo transfer during summer months tend to produce conception results much greater than regular A.I.
Thus, cattle embryos are generally produced to multiply animals with superior genetic value and, more recently, embryo transfers have been proposed to counteract the detrimental effects of heat stress on fertility in dairy cattle.
The in vitro (or simply IVF) production of cattle embryos is an interesting option to produce large quantities of embryos by retrieving oocytes from donor cows or slaughterhouse ovaries.
However, though production of embryos in vitro has improved a lot since its commercial introduction and use in the late ’90s, conception results for frozen IVF embryos still tend to be lower than fresh IVF embryos.
Obviously, there are ongoing efforts to improve the freezing process in IVF-produced embryos, and later field results are rather promising.
Alternatively, a recently proposed technology called intra-follicle oocyte transfer (IFOT) may represent an interesting option for embryo production – and perhaps at a lower cost. Also, because embryos are produced in vivo, these embryos are expected to have better viability after freezing as compared to IVF embryos.
Researchers even reported the birth of healthy calves resulting from this novel and exciting technique. Efforts from research groups in South America, Europe and the U.S. are currently ongoing toward improving this technique (Figure 1).
The intra-follicle oocyte transfer represents a breakthrough in the field of reproductive biotechnology in cattle with great applied potential.
Although improvements and adaptions of the technique are still needed to make it more suitable for field conditions, it could potentially change the way we produce embryos in the cattle industry. PD
Alex Souza is a veterinarian and Ph.D. with 17 years of experience in cattle management and reproductive biotechnologies.
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