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Objective To compare the Willis dropped ovary technique with traditional spaying methods in extensive beef cattle herds in northern Australia.

Procedure Three field trials were conducted simultaneously at different sites in northern Australia in 1996–97. Brahman and Brahman-Shorthorn cross heifers (n = 219, 2 years, 250 to 378 kg) and cows (n = 211, 3 to 16 years, 256 to 540 kg) were allocated by stratified randomisation to three treatments: spaying using the Willis dropped ovary technique (WDOT); spaying using traditional paralumbar and vaginal methods; and unspayed. Following these procedures, these nonpregnant, nonlactating cattle were then exposed to bulls (4 per 100 females) under extensive rangeland conditions for 12 months during which time weight, body condition, pregnancy and ovarian function were monitored and compared.

Results Pregnancy rates varied from 60 to 90% for entire heifers and 80 to 100% for entire cows depending on site. The traditional spay methods were 100% successful in preventing pregnancy; the WDOT was 92 to 97% effective, depending on operator experience. The number of deaths was the same or higher in Willis spayed animals than other groups. Weight changes were similar in all groups at the three sites over the trial period. The time taken to spay using the WDOT was similar to or less than that required for the traditional methods. Uterine abnormalities were not observed in animals spayed with the WDOT, there were however 30 (12.4%) animals where excision of the ovary was incomplete; the still-attached ovarian remnant presumably accounting for the three pregnant animals in this group.

Conclusion The WDOT suffers from requiring a high degree of skill in transrectal ovarian manipulation. There were more deaths and more pregnancies than with traditional spay methods. More experienced operators can be expected to achieve lower mortalities, better contraception and higher processing rates. Pregnancy will occur as a consequence of ovarian remnants unless care is taken to ensure removal of the entire ovary.