On a Riverina sheep station near Jerilderie in 1961 the first embryo transfer lambs were dropped from recipient mothers in a sheep reproduction program led by Dr Neil Moore who was associated with the Department of Animal Husbandry, Sydney University, from 1959-1989.
Dr Moore, who later became Professor Moore, was widely recognised for his work as “Australia’s leading scientist in agricultural reproductive biology” (Kannegiesser 1988, 342), quoted on page 151 in Sarah Franklin’s publication Dolly Mixtures: the reality of genealogy. Duke University Press, Durham and London, 2007.
His work had a lasting influence on the Australian Merino industry through the opportunity to have a greater genetic influence on an increased number of sheep from outstanding individuals which gave stud masters the tools to take the industry forward at an exponential rate over traditional methods, according to Ross Wells, studmaster at Willandra Merino stud, Jerilderie.
“Those techniques, used by many studs, also enables the successful export of frozen semen around the world,” Mr Wells said.
When Dr Moore was an undergraduate student he had been stimulated by the example and interpretation of ideas by Sir McFarlane Burnett, and as his career progressed Professor Moore continued to be fascinated by the breeding of animals.
Eventually he bred the first true hybrid in Australia, a cross between a goat and a Barbary sheep, which he named Goudad in a program which involved Sydney’s Taronga Zoo.
The hybrid had an unusual chromosome count of 59XY, yet Professor Moore said both sexes were fertile which was most unusual.
Professor Moore retired from the University of Sydney in 1989, to a 16-hectare farm near Bargo where had a controlled breeding and husbandry program involving Merino sheep which resulted in 180 per cent lambing with 175pc sale of lambs.
Later he founded a herd of Chianina cattle, and using a combination of AI and ET over his young females, he produced upgraded Chianinas years before those using traditional methods.
He received the Pioneer Award from the International Embryo Transfer Society in 1994, being the first Australian recognised in this way.
The citation noted Professor Moore contributed to more than 100 publications to the study of reproductive biology including mammalian embryo transfer and associated technologies for more than 30 years.
He is best known for his studies on embryo transfer and related technologies and his professional life was dedicated to research and teaching in reproductive biology.
Embryo transfer leads to IVF
Through his work at the McCaughey Institute, Jerilderie, and subsequent publication in academic journals Professor Neil Moore became recognised as a leader in the field.
His work was presented and discussed at the Australian Society for Reproductive Biology Conference in 1970.
This led Professor Moore to suggest to Professor Carl Wood, Chairman of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Monash University and the Queen Victoria Medical Centre (QVMC) that using a similar approach in humans might be useful as a treatment for infertility.
As a consequence of those discussions and a visit to observe first hand the research of Neil Moore and his PhD student, Alan Trounson, Professor Wood established a combined IVF research team in Melbourne involving the Royal Women’s Hospital, QVMC and Monash University.
This led to Candice Reed being first IVF baby to be born in Australia in June 1980 and the third IVF baby to be born in the world.