Understanding the IVF Process
The general premise of IVF is not unlike conventional flush, generating numerous viable embryos from genetically superior donors for transfer into recipient females. It is how the embryos are produced that makes IVF a unique and powerful tool. With IVF, unfertilized oocytes are collected from the donor and are matured and fertilized in a controlled laboratory setting prior to being transferred into recipients or frozen for later transfer.
Oocyte Collection in Small Ruminants (OPU)
A programmed, stimulated donor is anesthetized and prepared for surgery. One of our reproductive technicians creates multiple minimally invasive incisions in the abdominal wall to view the reproductive tract laparoscopically and manipulate the ovaries. To collect oocytes, each follicular antrum is identified and aspirated to remove the contents of each follicle, including the oocytes, into a collection vial. The vial contents are then screened through a filter allowing the oocytes to be isolated and rinsed into a dish. Using a microscope, the oocytes are retrieved from the dish, counted and graded based on quality. The incisions are then closed and the donor is allowed to recover under supervision.
For the next seven days, the oocytes are housed in the laboratory in conditions specifically designed to mimic the small ruminant reproductive environment. During the first 22-24 hours, the oocytes are matured in an incubator to prepare the oocytes for fertilization. Semen is then added to the oocytes, allowing fertilization to take place. The fertilized oocytes are cultured in an incubator for six days to facilitate their development into embryos. At this point, the embryos are evaluated for quality and are prepared either for fresh transfer into recipient females or for freezing. These fresh or frozen embryos can be shipped across the United States for transfer into recipients on farm or at any of our satellite locations.
Advantages of IVF
In Vitro Fertilization is a continually growing and evolving tool within small ruminant advanced reproduction. Reasons to consider adding IVF to your program include:
- Less semen is required per donor in comparison to conventional flushing or AI.
- Reverse sorted semen may be used to select for male only or female only progeny.
- Multiple sires may be used on each collection.
- The procedure can be performed on pregnant donors up to approximately 50-60 days gestation.
- The procedure can be performed on donors as young as 4 months of age.
- Donors may be utilized outside their normal breeding season.
- The procedure can be performed with shorter intervals between collections when compared to conventional flush.
- The minimally invasive removal of oocytes increases the longevity of most donors.
Another common advent for IVF is its use in donors that do not naturally breed or have trauma from previous reproductive procedures (conventional flushing, C-section, etc). While this is a valuable tool for these animals it is not a guarantee that a previously reproductive low producing animal will exceed expectations. This is often a case by case basis and very donor dependent.