Paragon Veterinary Group has rolled out a new on-farm cattle IVF service using a mobile Ovum Pick-Up (OPU) unit.

The specially designed vehicle allows delicate bovine eggs, known as oocytes, to be collected at the farm, eliminating the need for cattle to be transported to Paragon’s facilities.

Paragon’s Advanced Breeding division is mainly based at its Newbiggin centre.

The new vehicle streamlines the IVF process, reducing the time and cost for farmers.

This on-site collection ensures the oocytes are handled in optimum conditions right at the farm.

As a result, it enhances the chances of obtaining premium quality embryos.

The mobile OPU unit has already embarked on its maiden journey, providing services to farms nationwide, from Inverness to Hereford, and even remote locations in between.

News and Star: Paragon staff Imogen Threlfall, Rob Simmons, and Emily ArterParagon staff Imogen Threlfall, Rob Simmons, and Emily Arter (Image: Jenny Woolgar)

Rob Simmons, director and advanced breeding lead for Paragon, said: “Paragon has always been committed to producing the best quality embryos possible through its IVF programme, and until now this ethos would have been compromised by undertaking OPU collections on-farm, where we would have been unable to look after the oocytes as well as we’d like.

“With our investment in the dedicated, custom-built van to provide the optimal environment for processing the oocytes, alongside a new device developed with our partners in Canada to protect the oocytes during the collection process, we are now able to finally offer an on-farm collection service without compromising the quality of the embryos we produce.”

Vets conduct the delicate task of oocyte extraction right on the farm, maintaining controlled conditions within the vehicle.

The collected oocytes are then taken for fertilisation.

Imogen Threlfall, Paragon assistant lab manager, said: “Previously we had to get farmers to come to our laboratory in Newbiggin, so that we did not compromise our standards. Now we can go to them.

“This means we don’t have to keep the cows at our practice - which can save the farmer time and money - but also means we can offer a service to people who might struggle to get the cows to us.

“The whole process is temperature-controlled, from start to finish, so we are not losing our high standards for IVF.

“We can offer more to our clients and suit everyone’s needs. It’s just the extra mile we can now go for them. It was the next logical step for us.”

Although no live births have occurred yet due to the recent launch, the indicators are positive with a large number of frozen embryos already produced.

The company is one of only three companies to offer bovine IVF in the UK.

IVF allows farmers to breed multiple offspring from high-value animals, thereby accelerating herd improvement.

Paragon offers a wide range of services, including conventional flushing, embryo transfer, and semen collection for processing into artificial insemination straws.

Paragon Veterinary Group also has Large Animal, Equine, and Small Animal divisions, with centres at Dalston and Wetheral near Carlisle in Cumbria.