Dr. Ky Pohler is a reproductive physiologist and assistant professor in the Department of Animal Science at the University of Tennessee Institute for Agriculture (UTIA). Dr. Pohler joined the university in 2015 after receiving his Ph.D. in Animal Science from the University of Missouri. His primary research focus lies in gaining a better understanding of the mechanisms that are associated with fertility and reproductive efficiency in beef and dairy cattle. Specifically, Dr. Pohler is investigating what factors lead to embryonic and fetal mortality in cattle and developing strategies to overcome these losses.

 

Cattle are known to experience high rates (approximately 90%) of fertilization following insemination; however, pregnancy rates hover between 60 – 70%. One of the reasons for reproductive failure is embryo mortality. Current methods to assess fertility can only be conducted on cattle once they are 1 – 2 years old. This makes raising beef and dairy cattle a gamble for producers who invest a significant amount of money in their herds without knowing whether they will produce viable offspring.

Dr. Ky Pohler
Dr. Ky Pohler
Dr. Ky Pohler

 

Through his work at UTIA, Dr. Pohler has developed a technology that screens male cattle, or sires, to determine whether they will have fertility issues, and thus be able to produce healthy, successful offspring. Unlike conventional methods, this screening method can be conducted on day one of a sire’s life. The potential impact of assessing a sire’s fertility this early will not only lead to increased reproductive efficiency, but lower input costs and increased profitability for producers of beef and dairy cattle. Consumers stand to benefit as well, with lower prices for beef and dairy products.

Currently, Dr. Pohler is working to finesse his screening technology, determining how accurate and viable it is and whether it can be deployed in the field rather than in a laboratory space. He is also actively working with colleagues in his department, at other universities, and with collaborators in Brazil to identify additional reasons for reproductive inefficiencies and how to address them. His work has not gone without notice by peers in his field. In the past couple of years, Dr. Pohler has been the recipient of several awards, including the Outstanding Animal Science Graduate Student Award in 2015 from the American Society of Animal Science; the University of Tennessee Research Foundation’s (UTRF) first Innovation Driver Award in 2016; and the UT Department of Animal Science’s 2017 Buford E. Ellington Distinguished Faculty Award.

“Dr. Pohler’s work is having a significant impact on our ability to understand and manage reproductive inefficiencies in cattle, which has implications globally for the beef and dairy industries,” said Dr. Nghia Chiem, UTRF Licensing Associate. “We continue to support his path to commercialization and are excited to see how his technology will play out in the field.”

Dr. Pohler is grateful for the encouragement he has received from the UT Institute of Agriculture to explore possibilities around commercializing his research, as well as the support of UTRF’s staff. When Dr. Pohler joined UTIA, he was not familiar with the technology transfer process. UTRF helped him navigate this process and submit his first invention disclosure.
“I really appreciate how UTRF handles the day-to-day work of the tech transfer process, allowing me to stay focused on my work in the lab,” said Dr. Pohler. “They really are there for all researchers, not just established faculty, to help you identify whether your work has the potential for commercialization and recommend what steps you need to take to get there.”

Dr. Pohler anticipates that UTRF will continue to play a vital supporting role as his screening technology moves closer to commercialization.