The current trend for the production of bio-fuel from agricultural products has reduced agricultural land availability for the production of food and feed. A large portion of the land previously devoted for the production of grains for feeding cattle is now dedicated to crops for ethanol production. Therefore, it is imperative to make changes and adjustments to improve production efficiency in the cattle industry through innovative research. Relevant biological factors to advance production in the livestock industry deal with reproduction efficiency and genetic improvement on traits associated with production.

Researchers at Alcorn State University are currently working on manipulating follicular dynamics to enhance reproduction efficiency in beef cattle. Additionally, an embryo transfer research project has been established since 2003 as a means to improve the genetics of the beef herd. This project has a second objective to improve retention rates of transferred embryos with the use of hormonal protocols. It is believed that improving retention rates would make small and medium sized farmers more receptive to the use of the embryo transfer technique. Embryonic retention remains as one of the main concerns limiting the application of embryo transfer within cattle producers. This concern is based on data reporting embryo losses of more than 40% during the first 18 days of gestation in cattle and sheep, and even higher during the summer months.

The long term goal of this project is to improve cattle fertility through developing hormonal protocols to enhance retention rates of embryos transferred to cattle recipients. The central hypothesis is that supplementation of exogenous progesterone at the beginning of the gestation enhances survival of recently transferred young embryos by improving uterine conditions necessary for implantation. We have formulated this central hypothesis through substantial convincing preliminary data showing that there is a positive correlation between embryo survival and systemic progesterone levels in recipient cows during the first weeks of gestation. We test our central hypothesis and accomplish the overall objective by pursuing the following specific research objectives:

  1. Identify the role(s) of progesterone on regulating endometrial transcriptome.
  2. Determine the role of progesterone in regulating conceptus expression and production of the cytokines and IFN-T in heifers.

Therefore, the overall objective of this project is to elucidate the molecular mechanisms by which suitable uterine environments are generated by supplementation of exogenous progesterone administered via an intra-vaginal insert (CIDR).

The cattle industry is a major source of food in the U.S., and embryo mortality is the biggest factor preventing efficient production of cattle. Progesterone plays an intrinsic role in governing embryonic survival; however, how progesterone improves survival of the transferred embryo in the uterus is not known. Once this is understood we will then be able to manipulate the synchrony between the embryo and the uterine environment to enhance survival of transferred embryos in cattle. This in turn will increase usage of the technique among producers along with a significant impactin the genetics of the herds for traits highly correlated to profitability of the cattle industry. This research is significant because we will produce critical information for the development of hormonal protocols tailored to enhance retention rates of recently transferred bovine embryos.

As in the past, ASU will continue supporting research directed to better serve our clientele. The university has always been supportive of research projects aimed to benefit small cattle producers.