June 11, 2024

Picture: Embryos produced locally

The Ministry of Agriculture and Waterways has achieved a significant milestone by locally producing the embryos to boost elite cattle breeds in Fiji.

The Managing Director of Australian Reproductive Technologies, Mr. Simon Walton who is leading the research team on improving Fiji’s dairy and beef industry by implementing the Embryo Transfer Technology program, said that 7th June, 2024 should go down in Fiji's history books as the very first cows that were produced from the embryo transfer technology back in 2018 and 2019, were used to make embryos locally through the Multiple Ovulation Embryo Transfer (MOET) process.

Mr. Walton expressed his deep gratitude in being part of the team in this historic achievement, crediting the entire Animal Health & Production team.

“This wouldn’t be possible without the great leadership of the Livestock Research Section staff.”

“For our first attempt, we decided to perform MOET on a limited number of elite Brown Swiss and Senepol females, resulting in the selection of six donors, two Brown Swiss and four Senepol cows,” he said.

“We induced multiple ovulations in the cows using hormones, which caused them to produce and release many eggs. The eggs were inseminated using either a bull through natural mating or artificial insemination, which led to the formation of embryos. We left these embryos to develop inside the cow’s reproductive tract for seven days before flushing them out,” explained Mr Walton.

He said on average, they expected the cows to produce around five embryos each because the process of MOET allows the production of many embryos from one cow.

“Normally, a cow gives birth to one calf per year in a standard reproduction process. However, in this scenario, we have been able to collect five to eight embryos from a single cow,” said Mr Walton.

Through this procedure, the research team with the help of the Australian Veterinarian, Dr Doug Watson has succeeded in flushing 18 embryos from six cows.

“The embryos are currently stored in the liquid nitrogen tank for long-term preservation until their future use, either in embryo transfer or as a backup for our valuable genetics,” said Mr Walton.

Mr Walton added that these embryos will eventually be transferred to other cows with the expected pregnancy rate of 50 percent resulting in nine calves from a single production.

“A highly productive cow has the potential to produce 20 calves per year by performing this procedure four to six times annually. It’s a method to replicate elite genetics on a large scale, enabling the Ministry of Agriculture to expand its numbers and nucleus herd program. This also enables in distribution of those genetics to the private sector.”

Now that Fiji can produce embryos, he said we no longer have to rely on other countries for access to those elite genetics. However, to avoid inbreeding, we need to bring in new genetic material from other countries to maintain genetic diversity within our herd.

“We will keep producing embryos for greater success in the cattle industry in Fiji,” said Mr Walton.