She is the first foal to be born through ‘frozen embryo transfer’ – a form of IVF treatment that has been adapted for horses – and she is giving hope to breeders for the future export of pure-blood (thoroughbred) Lusitanos.
Little Lisa was born 10 days ago in Portugal’s animal reproduction centre CRAV near Vila do Conde.
She is described as “in good health”, and developing alongside her birth mother Josefina.
But what her entrance into the world means is that this form of reproduction could be used to ‘export’ the much sought-after Portuguese Lusitano breed to “distant locations” without all the logistical and even health problems involved in moving live animals.
Explains lead specialist behind the project António Rocha, the export of Lusitano thoroughbreds up till now has been dogged by the fact that a parasitic illness exists in adult horses in Portugal’s main breeding centres.
Just the antibodies to the parasite can prevent or hinder export for health reasons. But embryos are “free of most of these pathogens. Thus if cryopreserved (frozen), their export would be a safe and alternative way of exporting pure-blood Lusitano genetics”, he told Lusa.
For now, it’s a question of working with “other colleagues involved commercially in the reproduction industry” to fully develop the implications behind Lisa’s healthy birth.
CRAV is connected to Porto University’s Abel Salazar Institute of Sciences (ICBAS), and has been working on all forms of animal reproduction since 2005.
Markets that have up till now proved major challenges for the safe export of pure-bred Lusitanos include the United States.
Now, with the system used for Lisa’s birth, this distance is suddenly irrelevant as frozen embryo transfer (cryopreservation) allows for the artificial insemination of receptor mares thousands of kms away.