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Ovum pick-up

281. The term ovum pick-up is used to describe a technique where oocytes (immature ova) are collected from the follicles in the ovaries by aspiration using ultrasonic guidance through the vaginal wall. The oocytes are matured in the laboratory for 24 hours then fertilised and cultured for a further seven days before being transferred to prepared recipients or frozen for use at a later date. The number of embryos fit for transfer is still low and, in some cases, in vitro fertilised embryos can develop into calves with a higher than average birth weight resulting in calving difficulties.

282. The procedure requires considerable skill and must only be carried out by veterinary surgeons.

Recommendations

283. We have considerable concerns regarding oversize calves resulting from in vitro fertilised embryos that can cause difficulties at calving. It is essential that research is pursued as a matter of urgency. We intend to review the evidence within five years of this report.

284. Ovum pick-up should not be used on young, immature heifers.

285. Repeated epidural injections to allow for collection of oocytes by follicular aspiration as frequently as twice a week can cause welfare problems, such as chronic pain in the tail head and fused vertebrae. This requires urgent study. Pending these results, the frequency of ovum pick-up should be limited. The industry should be required to maintain records of problems caused and to report its findings annually to the Agriculture Departments.