Genetics: IVF calves attract big premiums at spring bull sales

Jon Condon, 22/10/2019

This 21-year-old Glenlands IVF donor cow, Glenlands Eve, has produced more than 20 sale progeny, with sons averaging $24,000 at auction.


RESULTS from prominent recent Queensland bull sales have further highlighted the impact that In-Vitro Fertilisation artificial breeding techniques are having on sale bull values, by greatly expanding access to elite maternal genetics.

Given the desperately dry conditions across much of the continent, this month’s Rockhampton Brahman Week Sale was an outstanding success by any measure, with 779 bulls averaging $10,965. But within the sale catalogue this year were 78 calves produced through IVF breeding techniques, which averaged an incredible $17,895.

All carried elite female Red or Grey Brahman genetics that could only be accessed in numbers through IVF programs.

In late September, Glenlands Droughtmasters recorded a new breed record with a complete clearance of 168 bulls averaging $12,023 at the stud’s 2019 sale. Of these, Glenlands’ 25 IVF-produced bulls generated from eggs from some of the stud’s 25 elite stud donor females averaged nearly double that, at $23,845.

In this earlier article, Beef Central noted the impact that IVF has had on prices for elite Wagyu stud females across Australia this year.

In May, three Wagyu females – all destined for careers as IVF donors –  sold for $280,000, $200,000 and $100,000 at the 2019 Elite Wagyu National Sale held in Adelaide, smashing previous breed records.

What that sale graphically demonstrated was the dramatic rise in value seen in elite-performing Wagyu females, relative to bulls, with the adoption of IVF breeding tools across the industry greatly enhancing female potential.

Simon Walton, managing director of one of the nation’s largest IVF service providers – Australian Reproductive Technologies, based in Rockhampton – said the trend in significantly higher prices being paid for IVF-produced seedstock calves had been seen for a number of years now.

“Obviously, the ability to produce many progeny from the best females gives studmasters tremendous opportunity for consistent selection of sale animals,” Mr Walton said.

IVF had been gaining market share from the more traditional MOET or flushing/ET breeding methods, he said, with well-managed IVF programs resulting in the birth of up to 50 offspring per year, per donor cow.

“There is no other technology that can boast that level of reproductive performance, and as a result it’s no surprise that the technology is increasingly in demand.”

Mr Walton said the ability to successfully freeze IVF embryos had been a major breakthrough for the seedstock industry, giving producers greater flexibility over when they ran their programs.

Glenlands Stud principal Darren Childs said the stud’s 2019 sale was a great result, and the ability to maximise the reproductive performance from the stud’s elite donor cows using IVF had again demonstrated the value of utilising the technology.

“It’s a credit to Glenlands ability to select the elite genetics that are in demand by cattle producers, “and it is IVF technology that allows Glenlands to mass replicate those elite genetics,” ART’s Simon Walton said.

He said some of the advantages of IVF included:

  • Not having to use hormones in donor cows, avoiding long-term fertility issues, and reducing on-farm labour
  • Eggs from donors could be collected every two weeks, increasing embryo production per donor
  • Eggs could be collected from pregnant donors up to around four months of pregnancy
  • Eggs could be collected from pre-pubertal heifers, condensing generational intervals
  • Eggs could be collected from donors three weeks after calving

Mr Walton said a single straw of semen was often enough to fertilise all the eggs from 5-10 donors, delivering ‘excellent’ semen utilisation.

A brief overview of IVF can be seen on this youtube clip.





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