Cows, like humans, take about nine months to carry a calf to term. But in the 1970s, American cattlemen began bucking the reins of nature’s limitations by performing a procedure called embryo transfer, or ET, as it’s referred to in the industry.
Now, elite-cattle breeders and commercial beef and dairy producers use ET to reproduce dozens of calves a year from their genetically superior heifers, who never actually have to birth a single calf. Surrogates carry the embryos to term.
The process can be time consuming and costly. But Dan Byers, owner of Byers Premium Cattle, Inc., who has bred his genetically superior cattle this way for six years, says it can pay off in the long run.
ET can also help preserve genetic diversity. As Harvest Public Media’s Luke Runyon has reported, the USDA stockpiles embryos from a wide variety of livestock breeds in Fort Collins, Colo.
U.S. beef and dairy genetics are in-demand all over the world.
Matthew Wheeler, a professor of animal sciences at the University of Illinois, who’s been involved in the embryo business since the 1970s, says U.S. genetics are a hot commodity — the cream of the crop have sold for a half-million bucks — because American cows are milk and meat production machines.
Wheeler, who used to be in the business of selling high-end genetics, is now working with his lab at the University of Illinois to develop a decent, low-cost embryo for countries who struggle to produce enough milk. The lab has partnerships with scientists, cattle producers, and ministers of agriculture in several countries, including Sri Lanka, Thailand, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Sierra Leone, Libya and Rwanda.
The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: America’s Elite Cows Don’t Give Birth — Their Surrogates Do