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Veterinarian View | September 2023

The ABC's of Embryo Record Keeping

contributed article by Dr. Vince Collison, Collison Embryo and Veterinary Services,

Rockwell City, Iowa



Many times, we will go to a farm or ranch to transfer embryos that were made at another ET facility. The first thing we will ask is, “Do you have paperwork for these embryos?” This would be an ABC form or some variation of this form. It will give us all the information needed to transfer the embryos properly and keep the records of transfers for each embryo.


Often the owners did not receive the paperwork with the shipment or did not bring it to the transfer site with the embryos. Luckily this information can usually be found on the straw ID plug for the embryo, and we can record this onto a blank ABC form, but this information is not available until the embryos are pulled from the tank for transfer and can be very time consuming to record on site.


A Section

The ABC form is an internationally accepted form used to record each individual collection. The A portion of this form is where all the pedigree information is recorded as far as the breed, pedigree name, and registration number of the sire and the donor. Also, the collection date or code can be recorded for the semen used and if it has been sexed there is a place to record that as well. In this section we also record the collection date as well as the breeding date. For many breed associations the collection date is required to register the calf, so this is good to have recorded for future use.


B Section

The B part of this form is where the transfers are recorded. It has a place to record the recipient ID, recipient breed or color, and the stage and grade of each individual embryo. If performing frozen transfers, we will record the specific straw number corresponding to the recipient it was transferred to. There is also a place to record the transfer date if performing frozen transfers.


C Section

The C part of this form is where all the freezing information is recorded. This shows the stage and grade for each individual straw that was frozen. In this section, it will also show the cane code of the frozen embryos. If it takes more than one cane to store an individual collection, it will show which straw numbers are in each unique cane code.


In ET there should never be two cane codes that are the same within an ET center. This allows you to find specific straw numbers from specific collection dates. This is one of the main differences between frozen embryos and frozen semen. Each embryo is treated more as an individual with a history for each embryo transferred or frozen.


This history also includes movements between tanks, transfer of ownership from your possession, and discards. This allows for you to account for each embryo produced. Although there is more to semen record keeping, we tend to keep semen records as a batch with so many units and will cross them off as they are used and not be as concerned with individual straws.


Also with semen, the cane code is the same for each bull across all collections. Whereas with the embryos, you could have the same mating from three different collections resulting in six different canes and each cane will have its own unique cane code allowing you to find a specific straw number from a specific collection date. Also with partnership donors, each partner can be assigned their own cane code within the collection, allowing each partner to keep their embryos segregated with their own unique cane code.


On the C form there is also a space on the far right-hand side that is blank. We like to record the recipient and the transfer date in this space if the form is available. At the bottom of the C form there is also information showing what type of freeze media was used, as well as specific instructions on how to thaw the embryos.



Completed ABC Forms

Complete ABC forms make information readily available. Everything you need to register a calf should be on this form. Providing as much information about a donor such as registration numbers, registered name, and tattoo makes it much easier to fill these forms out more completely. Also, the code of the ET center is listed on these forms so that they can be contacted with any questions that may arise.


When sending embryos to an ET center, make sure that the ABC forms are sent with the embryos. Also, when shipping embryos or semen make sure all information is detailed out in regard to who it is for and their contact information. So often we receive shipments that have no information provided in the shipment and we have no idea who the embryos or semen are for.


The other thing that happens is the name of the original owner is on the paperwork, but nothing about who the embryos are sold to. In addition to sending the detailed paperwork, it is also a good idea to email this information to your ET center with precise details of what they will be receiving. This helps to ensure that your embryos will be put in the right name and be available for you on transfer day.


Partnership Information

Make sure partnerships are detailed out in advance of performing the flushes or transfers. So often we perform a flush and freeze the embryos and are not aware of the various partnerships that are involved. Many clients will keep track of this themselves, but if we are to split embryos and billing, it is nice to have that information at the start. It is harder to sort that out after the work has been done. Also, that helps to ensure that each partner gets the embryos that are coming to them.


Prepare in Advance

As a final point, if you are having embryos shipped into your ET center, make sure you start early. It can take some time to get this done and will be harder as we get into the busy season. The biggest problems arise due to shippers being tied up with shipments that were scheduled earlier, holidays adding delays, and just the coordination to get embryos ready for shipment. It takes time to split embryos off of collections for shipment and having some lead time to get shipments prepared can really help your ET center. By giving yourself more time, you can help control the costs of shipping. Overnight shipping due to last minute shipments can really add to the cost.


We get records questions daily, so the more information provided, the easier it is to provide an answer. We recommend that owners take pictures of our records after transfers are completed or if we write on their copies, we will picture their copies as well.



Dr. Vince Collison is co-owner of Collison Embryo and Veterinary Services PAC

in Rockwell City, Iowa.

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