Embryo Flushing – VikingGenetics´ Best Females in Production

VikingEmbryo is our solution to reduce the generation interval for females by producing offspring from heifers. Here you will find an explanation of how our world-class program is running dynamically to achieve genetic progress. Earlier this week it was announced that Hollola station in Finland will become the centre for our embryo technology. 

The generation interval in females is usually around four years, but with embryo flushing, this generation interval can be shortened to two years. By reducing the generation interval, the genetic progress can be achieved a lot faster, meaning efficiency for a dairy farm. 
VikingEmbryo program also works as a tool for getting the best possible new sires for our breeding programs. Bull calves born from the best genomic females and our best bulls’ semen will accelerate the genetic progress of our breeding program.

By Combining VikingEmbryo with GenVikTEST, which is a genomic test, you can find the best females from the herd for embryo flushing and then have the lower genomic value females carry the offspring of the top females. The best results are achieved when the best genomic females are then inseminated with X-Vik semen. 

We currently do embryo flushing from heifers in Denmark, Sweden and Finland. These images are from Finland, where the embryo flushing expertise is of highest quality and results are impressive. Here is a short introduction to the embryo flushing process. 
Before the flushing

The heifers have been through something called superovulation, where the heifers release multiple ovum cells (egg cells) at once. The ovum cells then have been inseminated with sires’ semen. Afterwards, the embryos will develop for a week before the collection. The embryos are flushed from the uterus by using a saline solution and then collected to the round collection tray, which filters out the saline solution and leaves the embryos to the dish. 

The collection

To pick up the embryos can be tricky sometimes, according to our experts, depending on the cervix shape of the heifer. One flushing might take a while. In general, the flushing is a relatively quick procedure, on average around 30 minutes per flushing. Here you can see a drawing of the bovine cervix done by one of our vets. 
After the flushing

The collection trays are marked with the date and the name of the heifer and then transported to the lab. In the Lab, the collection tray is cleaned and the embryos are transferred to a Petri dish. The Lab technicians then look for the embryos through a microscope. Finding the embryos from the other biological matter takes a trained eye and sorting out the viable embryos requires a lot of training. The obtained embryos are then moved to another dish. 

Special treatment – cleaning the embryos

After the embryos are located and moved on a separate dish, they are cleaned on a special dish where they are rinsed five times. 
Special treatment – Cooling process

The cleaned embryos are then picked up on individual straws. Some of the embryos are used fresh, and they are quickly shipped out to the farms with receiving females for the insemination, while some other straws go through a cooling process if they are to be frozen. In this process, the embryo straws are placed in a cooling tank and liquid nitrogen is poured into the tank. The cooling process is complex and it has many stages. After the embryos are cooled down and frozen, they are moved to a storage tank. 

The success rate is 50-60% when using frozen embryos, which is around the same rate as using conventional insemination with semen. As mentioned before, Finland is one of the top countries when it comes to embryo flushing; on an average, we get seven embryos per heifer per flushing, which is an extremely good result in international comparison for red breeds and Holstein. We do embryo flushing every week at all our Viking countries locations. 

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