Dáire Markham MVB MRCVS, from Co. Roscommon, graduated with a degree in Veterinary Medicine from UCD in 2004.
After completing his studies, he worked in general practice for a short period in England before spending nine years in a large animal practice in Castlebar, Co. Mayo.
During this time, Dáire started becoming more involved in bovine fertility work. As a result, he travelled to Kansas in the USA to complete a course in Embryo Transfer (ET). He returned to open his business - Vetembryos.ie in Roscommon.
ET is growing in popularity all the time, and as interest grew, Dáire’s client base also expanded enough that he stopped general veterinary practice six years ago to raise his family and concentrate on this line of work. He decided to open his business - Vetembryos.ie in Roscommon.
The procedure actually started in the late 1970s; however, with modern technology and techniques, efficiency has greatly improved.
“I find the work very rewarding; you see these lovely pedigree cows and nine months later you see her sons and daughters around and you’re just thinking, wow”, the Ballinlough man told That's Farming.
“There are two animals that need to be taken into consideration, the donor and the recipient,” explained Dáire, who continued to say that the donor is usually a pedigree animal, maiden heifer, lactating cow or a top-end commercial cow.
The recipients are typically maiden heifers of lesser genetic merit.
The recipient is put on a course of drugs for 10-12 days and the last injection that she receives will bring her into heat. She will be inseminated twice, or as long as the programme dictates.
Seven days later, a silicone catheter will be inserted into the uterus and inflated with fluid; the fluid will then be recovered containing the embryos.
Just recently, the practitioner flushed four maiden dairy heifers for a farmer. He recovered over thirty embryos and implanted them into the farmer’s lesser-quality animals.
The result will be that when the herd is calving down next May, the calves will be of superior genetic merit.
This process is an in-vivo fertilisation, meaning that the eggs are fertilised within the uterus. “If the cows are flushed and transferred into a recipient heifer the same day, the success rate is about 60% - 65%, all going well,” said Dáire.
Due to the advancement of technology, any surplus embryos that are left over can be frozen for eventual use, as far into the future as the farmer wishes. “The conception rate with those generally runs from approximately 50% - 55%.”
Dáire works from his purpose-built facility in Roscommon where it also incorporates a donor facility to make it easier on the farmer, as the cow needs to be in top health for the procedure. The injections are also given over time, however, he will accommodate a cow for a farmer and accommodate her for a couple of weeks when she will be treated and flushed.
[Parthenaise donor heifer]
Not only is Dáire a qualified vet and an embryo transfer specialist, but he is also a farmer and a U12 coach for Michael Glaveys Éire Óg football team. Somewhere, he finds the time to run a 30-acre farm while he leases another 20-acre farm.
He keeps recipient heifers that he has purchased to receive embryos. This allows a customer who wants to flush a heifer, receive a number of calves that same year as Dáire can inseminate his own cows and he will sell the in-calve heifer back to the farmer.
The father-of-four considers his enterprise a “one-stop-shop” for farmers who want, but do not want the hassle of creating the end-product.
He also likes to breed Parthenaise cattle and last February, he exported a consignment of embryos to Australia. The enthusiastic vet said, “there has never been a bovine embryo exported to Australia from the Republic of Ireland before”.
Dáire first had to work with breeders from around the country to collect embryos for export, then he liaised with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to create a health cert that allows the embryos to be exported.
A large amount of work was also performed by the Irish Parthenaise Society to get the Australian breeder on board.
"The breeder in Australia has put in the embryos, he has in-calf heifers now. I think it's January or February that we expect the first batch of pedigree Parthenaise cattle to be born in there, a breed that has never been in Australia before".
This is an exciting first for both countries. Dáire hopes that it has opened the door to the future introduction of various breeds worldwide, and we will all follow the progression of his first Australian-born Parthenaise calves with interest.
For more information on Dáire's practice, click here
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