Oocyte quality and viability in Nguni and Hereford cows exposed to different levels of dietary protein

  • R. Hamman
  • P. N. Thompson
  • M. P. Smuts
  • T. Tshuma
  • D. E. HolmEmail author
Regular Articles


High blood urea nitrogen (BUN) concentration decreases fertility in ruminants. Nguni cattle are reported to maintain BUN concentration more efficiently than other beef breeds. Our objectives were to determine if BUN concentration differed between Nguni and Hereford cows exposed to a high protein ration, and if breed or BUN and serum protein concentrations at the time of oocyte pick-up affected oocyte quantity, quality, and viability. Twelve Nguni and 10 Hereford cows were randomized into high or normal BUN-inducing diets in a crossover design. Ultrasound-guided oocyte pick-up was performed twice weekly; oocytes were counted, visually graded and the viable oocytes were pooled by treatment and breed for in vitro maturation, fertilization, and culture. Nguni cows on the highest protein ration achieved lower mean BUN concentration than Herefords (P < 0.05), and Nguni cows reached BUN concentrations above 20 mg/dL less frequently than Herefords (P = 0.03). Donor BUN concentration above 20 mg/dL at the time of oocyte pick-up, but not breed, independently decreased the number of good quality oocytes harvested. Increasing weighted mean serum albumin of donor cows was independently associated with the number of oocytes that cleaved by day 2 and that reached morula stage by day 7 (P = 0.01). In conclusion, Nguni cows reached the critical threshold of 20 mg/dL BUN less frequently than Herefords; BUN of donor cows above 20 mg/dL negatively affected visual oocyte quality independent of breed, and increasing serum albumin of donor cows improved viability of bovine oocytes.


Beef cattle Fertility Urea Oocyte Albumin In vitro fertilization 


Funding information

This study was partly funded by the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. The funder did not play any role in study design, data collection, analysis or interpretation, or the decision to submit the article for publication.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Statement of animal rights

This project was approved by the Animal Use and Care Committee of the University of Pretoria (project V058/14).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Production Animal Studies, Faculty of Veterinary ScienceUniversity of PretoriaOnderstepoortSouth Africa

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