Sheep artificial insemination to improve lamb marketing in the Northeast
A committee of 6-10 farmers and veterinarians met 3 times to plan a workshop for farmers in the northeast to learn about sheep artificial insemination. A summer intern assisted with research and setting up a laboratory, at the Extension Learning Farm (ELF) (Canton, NY). Eight sheep were synchronized from the ELF flock for use during the workshop and semen was purchased by ELF. The workshop was held on September 20 and 21 at ELF with Glen Erickson instructing and Kirsten Anderson, DVM monitoring the sheep. Fourteen farmers, 2 Extension Educators, and 4 veterinary technology students attended the workshop. Follow-up activities and outreach materials are in progress. The Cornell Sheep Symposium did not happen in 2013 so it will be presented in 2014.
Our committee of farmers and veterinarians met three times over the spring and summer to decide what exactly we wanted to get out of the sheep AI workshop and who should be the instructor. It was concluded that one meeting that includes both laparoscopy (LAI) and fresh semen (VAI) would be better than trying to run two meetings. We chose the dates of September 20 and 21, 2013.
Intern was hired – Tristan Peterson, student from SUNY Morrisville with sheep experience. Intern also assisted with preliminary research.
Lined up instructor, Glen Erickson of New Frontier Genetics
Worked with instructor to purchase lab equipment
Intern prepared the lab area by cleaning and painting
Sheep were synchronized in preparation for the workshop and semen was ordered and stored.
Held the workshop at ELF with 14 farmers from NY, ME, and VT. Students from the local college and also 2 Extension Educators from NY (actually on of the farmers is also a retired educator from Vermont). There were several other farmers that were interested in the program but could not make it that day. One farmer from Saskatchewan watched the first day over a Webex program as well!
Covered LAI the first day and VAI the second day. Inseminated 8 sheep at the ELF
Farmer group has decided not to purchase a ram together this fall but will still meet and discuss ideas for the coming year (2014).
The group as a whole learned a lot about the logistics of sheep AI. Even ordering semen and shipping it can be a challenge. Synchronizing the sheep takes more planning than people realized as well. At the last minute we were able to borrow a nice cradle for the sheep and now we will attempt to build one. Some farmers realized that they would not want to do LAI and would like to pursue VAI. We plan to experiment with collecting rams and shipping the semen to see if we can get viable semen shipped to a farm within 24 hours.
We need more training in collecting and extending semen in the future. We now have the equipment and the instructor has agreed to help put together some factsheets.
Several articles were written and used in the monthly Extension Farm News magazines across northern New York. If some AI lambs are born we will do an article for the agricultural news to be released around NY State and shared on-line.
The farmer/veterinary committee will meet again in 2014 to decide how to procede, such as wether to purchase a ram together or try some fresh semen AI or pursue more training in collecting and extending semen. It is possible the vets involved would be able to do the teaching.
A survey at the end of the workshop showed that everyone attending hopes to use AI in some way on their farm in the future. Most agreed that it would be for a specific purpose or group of sheep rather than a whole herd process.
The group agreed that we need to develop some handouts/factsheets/recipes for synchronizing and collecting and extending semen because there were many details to absorb during the workshop and the factsheets could help them and other farmers with sheep AI.
- Table set up for LAI demo
- Viewing sperm motility on the big screen
- Prepping a sheep for LAI
- Sheep used for sheep AI demonstrations at ELF
- Sheep AI classroom
Note: Because we are dealing with real animals and their breeding cycles, timing is estimated as best we can.
Set up and advertise a Laparoscopic AI training for sometime during the summer of 2013 depending on the instructors’ availability.
Develop the curriculum and Pre-test and post-test with the instructor.
Group will work through email, conference calls and on-line conferencing to include farmer advisors in other states. Betsy Hodge with input from Ron Kuck, Brent Buchanan (CCE St. Lawrence County Ag Issue Leader), and a select group or producers that will make up an advisory board from our collaborators.
A group of interested producers, many of whom gave input for the grant itself was put together in an email list. They also met three times over the summer to hammer out the curriculum. They decided that it would be best to do the two meetings as one 2-day workshop.
Turns out summer is not the time to hold this workshop and we worked with the instructor to hold it in the fall on September 20 and 21.
Curriculum included ram and ewe management, semen handling, LAI, VAI, and ram semen collection. The instructor had a microscope with a camera and we were able to project onto a large TV screen both the semen motility and the laparoscopy inside the ewes.
Hold the LAI Training Session in Canton, NY Give the Pre and Post tests and collect contact information from participants for later follow-up. Betsy Hodge
Held in September
First producers will try LAI depending on when they normally breed for spring lambing.
Producers decided not to try it on their own farms yet but are considering it for future use.
Write monthly update articles for our Sheep and Goat Newsletters, share them on-line and through our sheep emailing list and list-serv groups. Betsy Hodge and Ron Kuck
2 articles were used to lead up to the workshop and a report after were shared in the email list and the Farm News.
Set up and advertise a Fresh semen AI training. Same group as top. May be combined with the next workshop to minimize traveling for participants.
Happened at the September workshop
Set-up and advertise a Ram Semen Collecting and Handling training. Same group as top
Happened at the September training and is something we need more training.
Fall and Winter 2013-2014
Hold the two trainings. Give Pre and Post tests and gather contact information for follow-up. Betsy Hodge with help from other Extension personnel
Note: If we can do this by mid-fall we may have some producers that can try VAI late fall of 2013. Since it will be most successful if used in the fall some will wait and try it fall of 2014.
Fall 2013 or Spring 2014
Depending on how fast things progress. – Make sheep AI and the project one of the topics at our fall or spring Sheep Week across the 6 northern counties of NY. Betsy Hodge and the NNY CCE Livestock Team.
We talked about this at the fall sheep week but will work on it again in the spring in prep for using AI in the fall (2014) (about 65 farmers). Will present at next year’s symposium at Cornell.
Fall 2013 and forward
Provide support for farmers interested in trying the procedures for either type of AI. (The five Extension personnel that attend the trainings, the two veterinarians that attended and also farmers that try LAI and VAI by sharing their experiences).
Keep track of the number of successful attempts to use LAI and VAI in flocks that attended the session and those that heard about it. Contact those that attended the training sessions in person or on the phone. Betsy Hodge and others on the advisory group.
Advisory group will get together in early 2014 and decide how they would like to proceed. The most likely options are to purchase a ram together and try collecting and using fresh semen AI and to get more training in collecting and extending semen. There is still a lot of enthusiasm in the group but a new sense of the reality of what is involved.
December 2013 – Write Annual Report for NESARE – Betsy Hodge
Summer -Fall 2014
Hold a field day at a farm with successful AI sired lambs to show the results to other farmers interested in purchasing AI sired breeding stock or in trying AI on their flock. Several around the region if possible. Betsy Hodge organize with others hosting where needed.
October 2014 (Maybe October 2015 if we need to have more results)
Report on our progress at the Cornell Sheep Symposium. Betsy Hodge and possible panel made of farmers
December 2014 – Write annual report for NESARE – Betsy Hodge
December 2015 – Write annual Report for NESARE – Betsy Hodge
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
The information is now in the farmer’s and educator’s and veterinarian’s hands. The educational outcome has encouraged farmers to learn more and potentially try sheep AI. Coincidentally, the small ruminant practitioners national meetings included sheep AI in their program which will benefit our program. The real impact will be felt over the next few years as we observe how many farmers decide to try sheep AI in one form or another.
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