Relatively new technology in cattle artificial breeding has been central to the establishment of one northern NSW Angus herd based on North American genetics.
The use of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) has enabled the Duddy family to kick off their Killain Angus herd in a short space of time, using genetics from the Schaff Angus Valley herd from North Dakota.
Richard and Susie Duddy and their sons, Ben and Thomas, now run a pure, closed herd of cattle based on the SAV genetics, after using IVF to establish their foundation - IVF having been in use in North America for more than a decade and now catching on in Australia.
"It's the only way they (in the US) do embryo transfer now," he said.
The IVF process harvests unfertilised eggs, or oocytes, from the donor cows by a technician with specialised equipment. The oocytes are cleaned, prepared and put in developing fluid, or media, while on the farm.
Mr Duddy said he had partnered with with one of the leaders in this breeding technology, Vytelle, a US company now also in Australia, to harvest oocytes on the farm, which had produced impressive yields.
"Our first lot we harvested we got 489 oocytes which produced 121 viable embryos. In the second harvest, 888 oocytes were collected, with 171 viable embryos as the result," he said.
"The key to Vytelle is the media they use for the oocytes because when we implant the viable embryos into the recipients, we have a low of 50 per cent of pregnancies and a high of 76pc.
Mr Duddy said once the eggs had been implanted into the cows, they are left alone for observation.
"What we do is we just watch them. Anything that comes back into season we then turn around, but we don't preg test for the first three to four months because we don't want to interfere with an embryo," he said.
Harvesting oocytes could also occur in young heifers not yet mature enough to be joined.
Mr Duddy said the oocyte harvesting process did not need any drugs, either, so a female could remain in full production.
"This allows the fast-tracking of the herd's genetic progress," he said.
"You can flush them while they're pregnant up to 90 days, even up to 120 days. So they can bear their own calves while the full sisters and brothers can be born from the recipient cows.
Two dams providing a large amount of IVF genetic material from the SAV herd for Killain are SAV Blackcap May 1416 and SAV Blackcap May 6644.
"They are the two best in our opinion the two best direct daughters of SAV Blackcap May 4136, with more than $US11.8m in progeny sales," Mr Duddy said.
Killain has also used the 2019 $US1.5 million world-record-priced SAV America 8018 extensively in its program.
May 1416 was the dam of SAV Scalehouse 0845, the top-selling bull at the 2021 Schaff Angus Valley sale for US$ 275,000.
"We just did a harvesting program with 20 yearling heifers here that are by SAV America 8018 and SAV Bloodline 9578, that topped the 2020 sale at $US 250,000," Mr Duddy said.
"We have been able to flush daughters of America 8018 and Scalehouse 0845 and that's allowed us to make real genetic progress and we're really excited about what we're going to produce.
"We're at the point where the cattle with embryos that we've been flushing in the last little while are the same genetics, the same cutting-edge genetics as what they're using in the SAV herd."
Killain markets bulls and genetic material, but with the demand for the genetics of the cattle and ongoing herd building, the nitrogen tank is all but bare, he said.