The IVF procedure offers an alternative to producers who have genetically valuable cows that for some reason are unable to produce viable embryos through standard embryo collection procedures. This technology can be used with oocytes harvested from older nonovulating cows, females with physical injuries (e.g., lameness), and problem breeding cows (e.g., abnormal cervix). Good success has been reported using IVF procedures on supplemental oocytes harvested from cows with cystic ovarian disease.
Today, oocytes are harvested from females by transvaginal ultrasound-guided collection procedures. To retrieve the oocytes for IVF, a trained professional inserts an ultrasound-guided stainless steel needle through the wall of the vagina near the cervix to extract oocytes from both ovaries of the donor female. This approach can also be used to harvest oocytes from prepubertal heifers and during the first trimester of gestation in pregnant cows.
With IVF the potential exists for more embryos to be produced in a shorter period of time because the collection procedure can be repeated on the same cow multiple times per month. Oocytes can be harvested from an early postpartum cow before the female begins cyclic activity. Good-quality embryos have been produced with IVF from oocytes harvested from cows as early as 10 days after calving. The approach allows the opportunity to produce one or more extra calves from the cow before she is mated to establish a pregnancy.
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