Alcorn State University’s sale last week of nine bulls produced from embryo transfers marked the start of
a program that will provide a handful of high-quality cattle for sale annually for years to come.
“This is the first sale we’ve had from any of the bulls coming from our embryo transfer service,” said Melissa Mason, a research assistant at Mississippi State University who works with Alcorn State Animal Science professor Evelin J. Cuadra.
The continuing embryo transfers will also give Alcorn University’s Animal Science Department a supply of high-value heifers for its research efforts, Mason said.
The Jan. 23 sale was the first of what is planned as an annual sale of Angus, Brangus and Simmental bulls out of the high-quality embryo transfers, said Cuadra, a professor of reproductive physiology.
The bulls went to family run L&M Cattle Co. of nearby Churchill, Mason said. “They’ll be used for breeding.”
Cuadra said the buyer got a real bargain. “Normally, these high genetic animals are too expensive for small farmers to buy,” he said.
At around $800 each, Alcorn State sold the animals essentially at a price that covered its investment, according to Cuadra. “If you bought from one of those breeders (who provided the embryos), you’d probably have to pay three times that much.”
An objective, he said, “is to raise high quality bulls genetic-wise that we can pass onto small farms at an affordable cost.”
Next year’s sale will be first of bulls produced through a program funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant.
The breeding effort involved transferring high-quality inseminated embryos into equally high-quality cows from an Alabama herd. The process began about 15 months ago with Mississippi State University’s donation of the embryos and their implanting into the cows obtained from Alabama, Cuadra explained.
“These cows were high quality,” he said of the Alabama herd, noting they were siblings of bulls that had sold for $20,000 each, some of which had been produced through artificial insemination.
The USDA grant is for three years but the breeding program is expected to sustain itself after that, Cuadra said.
In addition to providing high quality cattle for Alcorn’s research, the program is aimed at “developing a program in beef cattle that is sustainable” and to show students they have opportunities to make a living in the livestock industry.
Performing embryonic transfers is no simple task, he said. “Doing embryo transfers is something you have to do everyday to get good at.”