The cost of doing embryo transfer in cattle depends to a large extent on the results obtained as many of the costs involved (drugs, collection fee, travelling costs) are the same irrespective of the number of embryos produced. Therefore it is important to try and ensure that the number of embryos produced is maximised by trying to include donors that are more likely to produce high numbers of embryos.
MOET vs IVF Produced Embryos (Cost excluding implant fee)
At this stage the cost per embryo produced is still lower for MOET than for IVF embryos.
The approximate cost to superovulate and flush one cow and freeze the embryos is in the region of NZ$1000 and the international average for the number of good embryos per collection is 5, giving a cost of approximately $200 / embryo.
One IVF session (TVR collection and lab fees) costs approximately $600 and just under 2 embryos are produced per session, giving an approximate cost of $300 per embryo.
Generally the conception rate for IVP embryos is still about 10% lower than that of MOET embryos, which also widens the gap in the costs.
(See section on our website www.etservices.co.nz comparing IVF to MOET to see other factors that need to be taken into consideration in choosing between the two systems)
To try and ensure a favourable economic outcome to any ET programme, it is advisable to spread one’s risk over at least 2-3 donors. Selecting one top cow (often producing large volumes of milk at the time) as the sole donor, quite often ends up producing nothing or a small number of very expensive calves.
From the ET operator’s point of view, his set-up costs and time are very similar if he collects 1 cow or 2 cows and most operators have a fee structure that increases the fee to perform the first animal at any one site and then discounts subsequent collections so as to encourage owners to put up more than one donor to try and reduce the risk of not producing any embryos at all. Generally one out of three donor collections produce negligible numbers of embryos.
The cost of providing suitable recipient cows to implant the embryos into is often underestimated or not taken into account at all. Conception rates of implanted embryos, especially frozen/thawed ones is greatly influenced by the quality of the recipient. General advice is to programme twice the number of recipients than the number of embryos to be implanted. Not all of them come on heat in the correct time period and then a fair percentage are rejected at the time of implant.
The best recipient is a dry carry over cow but she usually has a large hidden cost, whereas the cow that costs the owner the least to use, a lactating cow, more often than not gives the poorest conception rates.
At the end of the day the most important figure is the cost per live calf produced and whether this expense is covered by the increase in value of the resulting animal.