Cattle Breeding: Embryo transfer | Drovers

 Donor cow with her ten embruo transercalves and the recipients that gestated them.

Training manual for embryo transfer in cattle

Most females will respond to the superovulation treatment with an average of five to seven transferable embryos but as indicated this is highly variable and is believed to be dependent on a number of factors.


Supported by the World Bank East African Agricultural Productivity Project (), interested farmers can receive advice on the procedures involved in using ET along with a tailor-made programme and options from the East Africa Embryo and Semen Transfer Association. The cost however still remains prohibitive for most farmers. A minimum package that includes harvesting embryos from 3 donors and transferring them to at least 5 surrogates costs Ksh200,000 (nearly US$2,000). The association is encouraging farmers to partner or work with to meet the financial requirements which hopefully will pay off in the long run since a calf of superior quality can be sold at Ksh150,000 (nearly US$1,500).[1]

In the case of small populations every animal counts and there can be a benefit realized from Embryo Transfer, but it is not the cure fora small population, as genetic diversity is important as well as animal numbers. There is the possibility of imposing restrictions on the number of calves from each cow that could be registered, as a way to minimize the possible effect that one cow has on the population, but again, this limitation would be similar to limiting the number of offspring allowed from a bull who has been drawn and used for artificial insemination, which the association has not ever addressed.


The is a non-profit organization located in Kenya’s Laikipia County. In addition to boasting East Africa’s largest black rhino sanctuary, Ol Pejeta holds the largest single herd of Boran cattle in the world. With a herd size of 2,000 top quality Boran breeding cows, Ol Pejeta is at the forefront of breeding for improved beef production.[1] As a member of the , Ol Pejeta as embraced breeding technologies such as (AI) and (ET).

Embryo Transfer and Artificial Insemination Products and Training

There is a real need for documentation, that the embryos in straws are what they are supposed to be. The American Embryo Transfer Association has clear rules for documenting the collection of embryos, as well as protocols for the identification and sale of embryos: view their website on the Internet at for more information. They defer to breed associations about individual rules on genetic testing and so forth.

Advantage Cattle Services, Classified Ads Embryo Page

In 1983 with the assistance of the International Trypanotolerance Center (ITC) (since renamed the West African Livestock Innovation Centre ) based in Banjul, The Gambia, embryos were collected from N’Dama cows and transferred into Kenya Boran cows by using multiple ovulation and embryo transfer. The Centre was able to breed 177 offspring that were genotyped and used in mapping for MAS.[3] The results suggest it is possible to produce that are more tolerant of trypanosomiasis than either parent. WALIC continues to employ a variety of breeding strategies and technologies to improve resistance to ATT as well as improve milk production in local breeds.


Value addition can be gained through demand for embryo transfer (ET). For example, farmers keeping indigenous or inferior quality breeds, but of adequate reproductive capacity, can rent their cows for use as surrogates. Alternatively, farmers keeping superior breeds can sell their 100-150 ova per cow per month. This strategy can be used to improve household income and increase the attractiveness of farming, as has been demonstrated in Brazil with hope for application in Kenya.[22]

Embryo Flushing and Transfer – The Art of Agriculture

Drought is a major risk for morbidity and a recurring challenge to maintaining herd size particularly in dryland areas in developing countries. In developed countries, some livestock keepers are using embryo transfer (ET) as a means of risk management against drought or other disasters that may significantly reduce herd size. By placing embryos into ET programmes and freezing them for use in the event of a drought, this allows for regenerating stock of superior quality rapidly. This method may also be less expensive than repurchasing cattle. Further, less meritable but nonetheless reproductively sound females from the surviving herd can be used as surrogates.[14] Although this strategy for risk management remains unavailable to most in developing countries, if ET technology becomes cheaper and more accessible to smallholders, it could become part of a suite of solutions to improve resilience to drought, climate change and other factors affecting livestock mortality rates.