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Investigations into procedures for the implementation of a multiple ovulation and embryo transfer scheme using ewe lambs: a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Animal Science at Massey University
Three trials using 6-7 month-old Romney ewe lambs and adult ewes were conducted to evaluate the feasibility of implementing a juvenile MOET scheme. Older lambs were used to evaluate ways of improving the ovulation rates in 3 additional trials, one of them involved Booroola-cross lambs. Studies were also carried out to develop and evaluate a technique for splitting sheep embryos, and these were transferred to recipient ewes. In the three trials involving superovulation and transfer a range of gonadotrophin treatments were used. The more highly purified preparations (FSH-P, Ovagen) gave lower responses compared with PMSG (1.78, 1.06 vs 4.18 respectively in Trial 3, P<0.01). Ovulation rate of ewe lambs relative to adult ewes in the 3 trials were respectively 1.20 vs 2.00 (P<0.01), 4.18 vs 6.35 and 1.61 vs 3.15. Overall, administration of GnRH did not significantly increase the ovulation rates, although lambs treated with PMSG + GnRH tended to give higher responses. Egg recovery was higher in most cases in adults than in lambs (91% vs 55%, P<0.01; 72% vs 47%. P<0.01; 34% vs 43%, for trials 1, 2 and 3 respectively). Fertilization rate in trial 1 was lower in lambs than in adults (50% vs 82%, P<0.05) but not different in trials 3 and 5, probably due to the use of intrauterine insemination. Ovulation rate was not improved by treating lambs at 8-9 months of age or by administering PMSG 2 or 4 days before sponge removal. Ovulation rates following gonadotrophin stimulation were higher in androstenedione-immunized ewe lambs than in non-immunized ewe lambs (2.22 vs 1.59. P<0.05). Booroola-cross lambs treated at 6-7 months of age gave considerably higher ovulation rates compared to those recorded in Romney lambs from another experiment conducted at the same time (3.79 vs 1.61). Lower embryo survival and incidence of twins were found for demi-embryos generated from 9-10 month-old lambs compared to those obtained from 24 months or older animals. Higher pregnancy rate and demi-embryo survival were found when bisecting blastocysts rather than morulae harvested in the same flush. A deterministic model incorporating parameters provided by the study showed that the limited number of lambs generated from lamb donors restricted the improvement in genetic progress.