Better cows for better results

July 3, 2003

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PLATTEVILLE-The University of Wisconsin-Platteville Pioneer Farm conducts numerous tests that are used to benefit not just the farm itself, but farmers all over the state.

One of newly successful projects is a cow embryo transfer procedure. This experiment has been in effect for more than three years at the Pioneer Farm.

Embryo transfer is when an embryo from a high-quality cow is put into a lower-quality cow to ensure that the calf will be of high quality. Over time, this type of transfer improves the entire herd's genetics.

To begin the process, a cow is super-ovulated - stimulated to produce more than one egg - and artificially inseminated. The fertilized embryos are flushed out of the cow's uterus after about seven day. The embryo is then implanted into the surrogate mother or frozen for later use.

Currently there are nine offspring at the Pioneer Farm, which were part of the embryo transfer process, and two have not yet been born. Seventy percent of the cows that were implanted were confirmed pregnant and delivered a healthy calf. Several of the cows, which were products of embryo transfers, have produced heifers.

"This is a great way to insure the increase of our milking herd with good, high-quality cows," said Cory Weigel, the dairy enterprise manager at the Pioneer Farm.

Most of the embryos, which can be costly, were donated to the farm. The most recent embryos were donated by Robert and Karen Schauf of Barron and Gary and Mary Housner of Elroy. Four years ago Dan Rieder donated a brown Swiss embryo to the Pioneer Farm's herd. This cow is now in the milking herd at the farm and has two offspring of her own in the herd as well.

Embryo transfers will continue to be used at the Pioneer farm to increase the quality of cows and the amount of milk they produce. Weigel is looking forward to doing more embryo transfers with in the Pioneer Farm's dairy herd.

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