Genetically sexing offspring.

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Well-known member
Jul 23, 2004
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West Central Texas Area
Is it possible to genetically sex the embryos from an AI program. If it is does anyone know if it is economically feasable(sp?). If it is it would seem like the way to go to build a herd; if you knew your calf crop would all be heifers. Or from the other point if you were marketing steers, would the premium paid for steers offset the added cost of sexing the embryos. Any comments would be appreciated.
Sexing of Embryos:
Sexing of embryos before transfer is especially sought by the dairy cattle industry where females are the desired milk producing unit. To be useful, sexing techniques must be accurate, efficient, rapid and without detrimental effects on the embryos. Embryos can be sexed by use of antibodies to male specific antigens such as the H-Y antigen. When a fluorescent second antibody approach is used, this method is non-damaging to embryos and approximately 85% accurate for cattle embryos (White et al., 1987; Wachtel et al., 1988; White, 1988).
Recently highly accurate methods for sexing embryos which use only a few cells and provide a quick answer have been developed. These methods involve the use of Y chromosome-specific bands on a gel from a labeled homologous recognition probe.

Y-specific fragments are used as probes to locate homologous sequences present in DNA from blastomeres or trophoblast cells of embryos. As few as two to five blastomeres can be biopsied from embryos and, using an oligonucleotide polymerase chain reaction for signal amplification, embryonic sex can be determined in 6 hrs or less. Several Y specific probes are currently available for sex selection of cattle embryos (Leonard et al., 1987; Ellis et al., 1988; Popescu et al., 1988; Reed et al., 1988; Bondioli et al., 1989; Herr et al., 1989a,b, 1990) and one has been developed for swine. Recently the Y chromosome deletion assay has been simplified to a cow side field assay kit of excellent accuracy (Herr et al., 1990b,c).

Sexing Sperm:
While the sexing of embryos provides a way to predetermine sex, the commercial production of offspring of a chosen sex would be greatly facilitated if sperm could be sexed and the sexed semen distributed through artificial insemination. A dairyman may wish all females while specific superior cows might be inseminated with male sperm to produce beef or dairy bulls. Until recently the prospects for sexing semen have been dim. It has been known for some time that sperm containing either an X or a Y chromosome could be separated by fluorescence of stained DNA of X and Y sperm using a fluorescence activated cell sorter. This became a standard confirmatory assay but the sperm were dead after the separation. Recently Johnson et al., (1989) have reported a modification of this method wherein sperm remain alive. When female rabbits were inseminated with sorted sperm from the X chromosome population 94% of the offspring born were females. After insemination of the Y bearing sperm 81% of the offspring were male. Because of the large sample required for insemination there was overlap between the base of the X and Y peaks. If in vitro fertilization and small sperm numbers were used it should be possible to use only the completely separated peaks of X and Y sorted populations thereby increasing the accuracy to nearly 100%. Commercial use through artificial insemination will be limited until more efficient sorting systems are developed and damaging effects of the fluorescence staining on chromatin will need to be prevented.
There is a method of sorting semen using the trait of male sperm to swim faster the nfemale. The problem is the number of damaged sperm that result. As I understand it, it has to do with a low voltage application. That's part of the reason that sexed semen is so expensive. The lab work plus the decreased quantitiy of units that can be put up from an ejaculate.

Their is a company in Navasota, TX called Global Resource International that provides sexing services. They collect the bulls and run the semen through a machine to seperate the X & Y. It will cost about $40.00 a straw more plus collecting fees. The Fullblood Simmental breeders are using this technology with great results and gaurantee embryos on their sex. Most of the breeders are only pruducing female embryo's. If you need more info let me know.

Matt Schiel
Bar M Ranch

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