The objectives of this study were to evaluate the effect of sperm dose and sire on the fertilization rate, cleavage rate and blastocyst yield following insemination in vitro, to examine the relationship between these parameters and field fertility in cattle, and to examine the relationship between blastocyst quality and sire used in IVF. Frozen semen from four bulls with 150-day nonreturn rates ranging from 57 to 78% was used. In Experiment 1, oocytes were inseminated with sperm from one of the four bulls at concentrations ranging from 0.016 to 0.5 x 10(6)sperm/ml. A proportion of presumptive zygotes were fixed at 17 h post-insemination (hpi), while the remainder was transferred to in vitro culture (IVC) in droplets of synthetic oviduct fluid (SOF). Cleavage at 48 hpi and the percentage of oocytes reaching the blastocyst stage by Day 8 were recorded. In Experiment 2, to assess blastocyst quality, after insemination with semen from one of the four bulls, presumptive zygotes were cultured in SOF until Day 7. Blastocysts for each bull were removed and vitrified/warmed and survival was recorded at 24, 48 and 72 h after warming. Regardless of bull used, a concentration of 0.125 x 10(6)sperm/ml or above resulted in higher blastocyst yields than any lower concentration used. Fertilization and cleavage rates were also higher at higher sperm concentrations. The best predictor of field fertility was fertilization rate at a concentration of 0.5 x 10(6)sperm/ml (r=0.94, P<0.0001). There was also a significant correlation between cleavage rate at a concentration of 0.5 x 10(6)sperm/ml and nonreturn rate (r=0.90, P<0.0001). In Experiment 2, blastocysts derived from one bull, HTA, were of superior quality as measured by survival 24h after thawing, although these differences were less significant at the subsequent time points measured. In conclusion, these data show that differences between the field fertility of bulls can be determined at sperm concentrations routinely used in IVF. Lowering the sperm concentration does not increase the likelihood of optimizing the differences in fertility or cleavage rate between bulls of different field fertility. We have also demonstrated that the bull can have a significant effect on the quality of blastocysts produced using IVF techniques.
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