Collecting embryos by Embryo Plus from Boran donor cows in Kenya has been ongoing and very successful. We have great cooperation from the Kenyan Boran Cattle Breeders Society (BCBS) and their breeders. Very good cows and bulls have been available for the flushing projects in the last 5 years.
Selection of cattle
The process has its logistical problems, which we have been sorting out over the years. The strategy and planning to follow would first be to select cattle in Kenya. This can be done in cooperation with individual farmers in Kenya and the BCBS and have them select cattle for a South African farmer. They will also be willing to show their cattle to a farmer and have you select the cattle for future flushings.
The cattle might be pregnant but will be kept away from the bulls after calving and will be ready for the next intake into the Ol Pejeta quarantine centre. An inspector from the BCBS for exports to South Africa will approve all the cattle that enter the quarantine centre. The South African Boran Breed Society has approved the Kenyan inspectors for inspection of Kenyan Boran imported to South Africa.
Embryo collections are roughly planned around September, November, January and March. Intakes into the quarantine centre will then happen around August and December. To do embryo collections in Kenya between June and August is not worthwhile due to the cold weather and winds they experience that time of year.
Cows will have to be 2 months after calving when taken into the quarantine facility. No heifers or first calves should be selected for embryo collections and preferably cows not older than 14 years of age.
Testing and flushing
The cows and bulls will undergo a battery of disease testing as instructed by the South African Department of Animal Health. Testing of the animals will be conducted by Embryo Plus and supervised by a representative from Department of Animal Health from SA and one from Kenya. Donor cows and bulls will stay in quarantine for at least 42 days before the first flushing while testing is done on the animals.
All positive animals will be removed from the quarantine. The program takes 32 days for the synchronization and superovulation. Before the program starts each farmer will have to instruct Embryo Plus on the bulls and matings to do on the donor cows as they are all sorted into groups according to the bulls used and present in the quarantine.
After the first flushing each farmer will receive the results of the flushings from his cows and will also be advised which cows Embryo Plus suggest to flush again or would be better to be removed from the centre. From the first to the second flushing we will adapt the program for each individual cow and hopefully get more embryos from each cow remaining in the centre.
About two months after the first flushing we will do the second flushing. At the time of the second flushing more blood samples will be taken for more disease testing. Should a cow test positive at this stage the South African farmer will be liable for all the costs incurred but the Kenyan farmer will wave the genetic costs of those embryos, as it will not be delivered to the SA farmer.
Importation of embryos
After the disease testing has been done and the embryos have been approved by the Deputy Director of Animal Health of the North West Province to enter the country, Embryo Plus will apply for a permit from the SA Boran Breed Society, Studbook, Department of Stock Improvement and the Department of Animal Health. All cattle imported through Embryo Plus and this system will be imported with a Registration Certificate from the BCBS and the Kenyan Department of Agriculture and DNA-typing for parentage verification of both the donor bull and donor cow.
From the time the last flushing has been done and all approvals have taken place (should there be no problems with disease testing or registration of the animals) will take about 3-4 months. Then all certification is shipped to Kenya to accompany the embryos to South Africa. Shipment takes another 2 weeks and after arrival at the Johannesburg quarantine centre the consignment is inspected by the quarantine master and takes another 2 weeks before release to Embryo Plus. All embryos imported are under direct supervision of Embryo Plus as instructed by the Department of Animal Health.
I would like to re-iterate the fact that we cannot import semen from the rest of Africa into South Africa due to the diseases from Africa. Semen contains of sperm and seminal plasma and there are millions of sperm in a dose of semen. Numerous diseases like Bovine Viral Diarrhea has been proven to be transmitted through semen. Diseases like Foot and Mouth disease has been proven to occur in semen and its transmission is unknown. On the other hand embryos are cleaned, washed and disinfected by various methods and cannot transmit any disease if handled properly.
We (and I hope no other farmer) would not like to be the person to import one of these serious African diseases (like Foot and Mouth disease, Rinderpest or Contagious Bovine Pleuro-pneumonia) to South Africa and have all exports of animals, and animal products like beef, pork, wildlife and chicken banned. This will have serious consequences for our export and our local beef industry.
Transfers of embryos in South Africa
A batch of embryos from every consignment will have to be transferred in quarantine at Embryo Plus quarantine centre in Brits or if special permission been given by the Director of Animal Health in such a quarantine centre. Two months after this batch of embryos have been transferred, the recipients are inspected by a representative from the Department of Animal Health (normally of the North West) and approved that there were no outbreak of disease in these recipients.
A letter of recommendation is then written by the Deputy Director of the North West from the Department of Animal Health, that the rest of the embryos may be cleared for transfers at other places around the country. After we receive such an approval from the Director from the Department of Animal Health embryos can then be transferred by Embryo Plus under certain conditions.
• The farmer and/or Embryo Plus must notify the local State Veterinarian about the proposed embryo transfers.
• No animals that have received such an embryo are to be removed from the property within 6 weeks after the transfer of these imported embryos.
• Should a recipient get sick within the 6 weeks the local State Veterinarian and Embryo Plus should be immediately notified for inspection by the State Veterinarian and should he deem necessary do further testing.
• Embryo Plus will report every 4 months to the National Department of Animal Health on all embryos transferred.
Birth of embryo calves
This will have to be done for all embryo calves born in South Africa and is regulations set by the Registrar of Stock Improvement, the South African Studbook and complied the SA Boran Breeders Society. After the birth of the embryo calves you should do the following:
• Identify the calf properly immediately after birth as not to get confused on which recipient gave birth to which calf. It is advised to tag the calve with its number, the number of the recipient and the numbers of the donors (this was received from Embryo Plus after the transfer)
• Calf should be weighed and marked as soon as possible according to the prescription by the SA Boran Breed Society.
• Hair samples should be taken from every embryo calf and sent away for parentage verification. To take these samples you can grab hold of the tail. Pull 6-10 hairs from the tip of the tail out by jerking the hair towards the body of the calf. Make sure these hair samples contain hair follicles as that contains the cells for DNA-typing. Place all the hair in an envelope with the details of the calf, recipient and donor sire and dam on the envelope.
These samples can be sent to Embryo Plus and we will assist you with all the necessary documentation or each farmer can handle it by himself through the DNA-laboratories, which at the moment are Unistel Medical Laboratories, Attention: Dr. M.P. Marx, Postnet suite #13, P/Bag X22, Tygervallei, 7536 Telephone number: 021 938 9213/4 and ARC, Dr L Harris, P/Bag X2, Irene, 0062 Telephone number: 012 672 9111. The relevant forms and payments should accompany these samples.
• The results of the DNA-parentage verification are then sent with the following forms to the breed society:
• Birth notification
- This needs to be completed by the breeder
- This can be supplied directly by the breeder to the breed society
• Schedule O form
- This needs to be completed by the veterinarian
that did the embryo transfer.
- It contains all the details of the embryo, flushing
date and freezing date
Costs and fees
This acts as a guideline and the way Embryo Plus has structured a highly successful working relationship between Boran breeders from Kenya and Boran breeders from SA.
• Fixed costs
• This includes: Flights by staff from SA to do blood collection, semen collection, artificial insemination (AI) on donor cows and embryo collection. Flights and costs from state veterinarian from SA and veterinary authority costs and certification from Kenya. Exports of materials to be used in Kenya. Importation of embryos to SA, insurance, clearance of embryos, customs and taxes. Boarding and lodging in Kenya by staff and state veterinarians. Liquid Nitrogen, sterile water and traveling in Kenya. Rental of quarantine.
• Costs per animal
• Boarding and lodging of cattle in the quarantine. Variable according to time of year and availability of feed
• Disease testing for pre and post flushing tests of donor cows and bulls
• Embryo flushing cost per flushing.
• Genetic cost
• Price per embryo charged by Kenyan farmer, negotiated by each individual farmer.
• Price of semen per flushing
All the fixed costs are then shared by all the parties involved in the flushing in the centre for each consignment (consisting of 2 flushing per consignment). I.e. if you have 5 cows in the centre and there are a total of 50 cows in the centre you will pay 5/50 of the total fixed costs.
Each buyer will pay genetic costs to the owner of the cow he is flushing per the agreed price and pricing structure they have agreed to. Each buyer will pay genetic costs per bull used on each flushing as agreed to. The disease testing, boarding and lodging costs of each bull will then be shared amongst all the buyers that have used such a bull for the flushing and each buyer will also pay his pro rata share on the number of flushings/matings he has used the bull.
The total proposed costs will be worked out at an average of 4 embryos for each individual buyer. 33% of that cost will be payable when the donors enter the quarantine facility and 33% will be payable after the first flushing. After the second flushing the full costs will be worked out and a reconciliation will be made according to the true costs accrued by each person and his donor cows (i.e. number of embryo/flush would influence that dramatically). Such a final balance will be payable after the second flushing and before the embryos leave Kenya.
To contact the BCBS in Kenya please contact:
Mr. Giles Prettejohn at or +254 733 299592
Or for further information contact:
Embryo Plus at firstname.lastname@example.org or +27 12 2502359