A newborn animal helped make a big leap in genetic science. In the wide-eyed wonder of new life, Oklahoma researchers see an amazing future. Petri, a young calf, takes the name of the place where he was conceived. Dr. Gregor Morgan and his team brought in eggs from slaughterhouse cows to their Stillwater lab. "About 24 hours later, we fertilized them with semen from the bull and the culture," he said. "The developing embryo was up in the lab for about seven or eight days."
They grew three embryos in petri dishes and implanted them in a holstein cow at the Oklahoma State University dairy. "Lo and behold, one of them survived. And we have Petri with us!" said Morgan.
Petri is a week old. Like his Angus father, he's jet black with a white star between his eyes. Only seven of ten fertilized eggs start to grow. Morgan says only a third of those make it to normal embryos. "Perfecting the procedure means that farmers and ranchers eventually won't have to lose an investment in an expensive animal if that animal can't reproduce," he said. "The genes that produce superior milk and meat can be passed on. Otherwise, they're lost. In fact, we have a couple of dairymen locally that are very interested", Morgan noted. "They've got some cows that haven't produced calves in three or four years."
Within a year, Morgan says OSU researchers could produce the first cloned calf.
"You can just take one of those and keep cloning and cloning and cloning and making huge replicates of the same cow," he said. "Those animals are genetically superior."
Veterinarians expect Petri to have a long life. The procedure is expensive. It runs around $250 for each in vitro fertilization. Ranchers and farmers will probably use it on valuable livestock.