Use of embryo transfer seven days after artificial insemination or transferring identical demi-embryos to increase twinning in beef cattle.
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Our objectives were to determine pregnancy rate, fetal loss, and number of calves born in beef cattle after a fixed-time transfer of an embryo 7 d after a fixed-time artificial insemination (TAI) of cows (Exp. 1) and after transfer of 2 demi-embryos into a single heifer recipient (Exp. 2). In Exp. 1 after synchronization of ovulation, during 2 yr, 297 suckled beef cows were assigned randomly to 1 of 3 treatments: 1) on d 2 cows received a single TAI (TAI-2; n = 99), 2) a fixed-time direct transfer, frozen and thawed embryo placed in the uterine horn ipsilateral to the ovary containing a corpus luteum (CL) on d 9 embryo transfer (ET-9; n = 99), or 3) cows received TAI on d 2 and a frozen and thawed direct transfer embryo placed in the uterine horn ipsilateral to the ovary containing a CL on d 9 (TWIN) treatments (n = 99). Fetal number and viability were determined with ultrasonography at 33 to 35 d and 90 to 100 d after insemination. In Exp. 2, 74 crossbred recipient heifers were assigned randomly to receive either 1) a single whole fresh embryo (WHOLE; n = 37) or 2) 2 identical fresh demi-embryos (SPLIT; n = 37) in the uterine horn ipsilateral to the CL 7 d after an observed estrus. Ultrasonography was used on d 33, 69, and 108 to determine presence and number of embryos or fetuses. Palpation per rectum was used to determine pregnancy status on d 180 of gestation and number of live calves was recorded at birth. In Exp. 1 pregnancy rates on d 30 to 35 were greater (P < 0.05) for TWIN- (48.5%) and TAI-2- (47.5%) than for ET-9- (33.3%) treated cows. Of the 48 pregnant cows in the TWIN treatment, 21 were twin pregnancies whereas there was 1 twin pregnancy in the TAI-2 treatment. As a result, TWIN cows had more fetuses (P < 0.05) as a proportion of all treated cows (69.7%) than TAI-2- (48.5%) or ET-9-(33.3%) treated cows, and cows in the TWIN treatment gave birth to more (P < 0.01) calves (n = 55) compared with cows in the ET treatment (n = 23) whereas cows in the TAI-2 treatment (n = 40) were intermediate. In Exp. 2 heifers receiving SPLIT (81.1%) had greater (P < 0.05) pregnancy rates on d 33 than heifers receiving WHOLE (40.5%). Of the SPLIT heifers that were confirmed pregnant at d 33 after transfer, 57% were gestating twin fetuses. Embryonic or fetal loss from d 33 to birth was greater (P < 0.01) in heifers in the SPLIT treatment (40.0%) compared with the WHOLE treatment (0.0%), but number of calves per female treated was greater (P < 0.05) in heifers in the SPLIT treatment (75.0%) compared with heifers in the WHOLE treatment (40.5%). We conclude that transferring an embryo into a cow 7 d after TAI did not increase the pregnancy rate in Exp.1. However, transferring 2 demi-embryos into a single heifer recipient increased pregnancy rate at 33 d of gestation whereas both methods of inducing twinning resulted in a greater number of calves per female treated. In addition, embryonic or fetal loss associated with unilateral twin pregnancies in heifers occurred at rates greater than those associated with single-fetus pregnancies.