Friday, April 27, 2012

Embryo Transplants ( Part Deux)

I wrote this blog a year ago and its fun to see how far I've come! We once again embarked on ET day here at the ranch so instead of writing another blog on the same topic, I thought I would just enhance my one from last year. Adding and correcting where necessary! If you have any questions, dont be shy!!

One of my goals for this blog was to make take all the ranch lingo and make it user friendly. To remove all the mystery out of what goes on behind the big red gates and bring it to the front page... or something along those lines.

Here's the problem with that. I still know very little about whats going on here. Still true today, in the grand scheme of things, but I've come leaps and bounds over the last 365 days.  I mean, don't get me wrong. I can gather, vaccinate and ship with the best of them. But when it comes to the logistics of it all, I sorta enter my own little world and end up picking out the cutest calf and giving them their own little stories.

So when I heard we were doing Embryo Transplants, I thought this was the golden ticket to cross that bridge and really get the 'know how' about what, why and how this was all going down. Camera in hand and my list of 200 questions, (this is good for me, usually I'm in the 450 range) we went to the pens.
P.S. My 400 questions quota has not and probably will not change. But luckily, Kayla with SEK was nice enough to humor me.  I mean who can't humor a pregnant lady out at the pens?!

After further investigation and another 250 questions, (putting me at my usual quota) I think I have it figured out. We take a few of our older, awesome cows that are ending their natural child rearing years and give them a super ovulation hormone. Then, instead of fertilizing her and creating another "Octomom" we flush those eggs out, fertilize them, and freeze them. Finally, we take the lucky cows that dont have to deal with the cranky bull, watch their heat cycles and implant them one week after they come into heat. (you really dont want to know all the details of this) This is a great opportunity to increase our genetics in our herd without having to purchase new bulls.  Since the Black Hereford herd size is growing, we find ourselves having to introduce new Hereford bulls into the mix to increase our genetic pool.  With this Embryo transplant, we can create a future calf using genetics from other breeders therefor maintaining our herd size while getting new good future herd bulls.  

Also, the details of this are pretty amazing.  SEK Genetics, "the dream team", come out loaded to the max. They have a sonogram machine, the implanted embryos and more.  One of the dream team members first sonograms the heifer or cow to see which side she is ovulating on.  ( this is a direct result of the seeders we put in to get the girl's heat cycles regulated) Once that's established he feeds the embryo which is a straw the size of a pen tip into her lady area, past her cervix and directly into her uterus.  It's so incredibly fascinating that he does this all just by feel! Now I know why they're the dream team!

After that, back to flint hills grass and 9 months later, Bam! Great mom + Great bull X healthy young cow = awesome baby.

"Am I glowing?"

This is beneficial for us because we can use cows from our herd that maybe carry a gene we dont want passed down OR we can use commercial cows since none of the genetics are transferred.

For the most part, we use commercial colored heifers because they sell at a discount at the sale barn.  We generally buy a bulk of heifers ( around 2 years old) and sort of the black ones from the colored ones ( ranging from red, gray, tan, yellow, brindle you name it)  Since we are going to be keeping the calf we have the option of either reusing this ET cow or selling her after the calf is weaned and most of that depends on how good of a mom she is! 

I hope that helped clear up any confusion from last year but as I mentioned, feel free to ask questions! Kayla and I decided it's the only way to learn!

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