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Anim Reprod Sci. 2005 Jan;85(1-2):71-80.

Superovulation and embryo recovery from peripubertal Holstein heifers.

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Department of Animal Sciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA.


The use of peripubertal donors in embryo transfer (ET) programs presents significant opportunity to accelerate genetic gain in domestic livestock by reducing the generation interval. These studies were designed to evaluate feasibility of superovulation and embryo recovery in peripubertal heifers (starting at 7.8 months of age), and to determine whether subsequent reproductive and lactational performance of donor heifers were impaired. Study 1 utilized 10 pairs of contemporary full-sibling heifers in which one heifer in each pair was assigned to receive a superovulation regimen and her full-sibling contemporary received placebo. Treated heifers were artificially inseminated at estrus and embryos were flushed transcervically 4-6 days later. Based on recovery of oocytes and/or embryos, 9 of 10 heifers responded to the hormonal regimen and 12 total embryos were recovered. Seven embryos (58%) were transferred into recipients resulting in five pregnancies. Control and treated heifers remained in the herd and were bred at a natural estrus by AI at 15 months of age. Lactation records, i.e., 305 days mature equivalent (305 d ME) were obtained, and all animals were evaluated for udder conformation traits between 32 and 38 months of age. Reproductive traits (age at first calving and days to conception) and lactational traits of heifers subjected to embryo transfer and their non-treated full-siblings did not differ (P > 0.05). Study 2 was conducted to establish the commercial feasibility of hormonally programming peripubertal heifers ranging in age from 7.8 to 9.9; 10 to 11.9; 12 to 13.9 and >/= 14 months. In total, 3982 embryos were recovered from 520 heifers, with 2419 (60.7%) of those categorized as viable (transferable). The number of ova/embryos obtained per flush (5.6 +/- 1.0) and the number of transferable embryos (2.8 +/- 0.5) was reduced (P < 0.05) in heifers of age 7.8-9.9 months compared to all other age groups. There was no difference (P > 0.05) in the number of ova/embryos recovered (7.8 +/- 0.3), or the number of transferable embryos (4.8 +/- 0.2), among heifers that were >/=10 months of age. The number of unfertilized ova did not differ by age, however, more degenerate embryos tended to be recovered from heifers <10 months of age compared to heifers >/=14 months of age. These data indicate that transferable embryos can be safely recovered from heifers beginning at 10 months of age without compromising subsequent reproductive or lactational performance of the donor.

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