Sheep artificial insemination to improve lamb marketing in the Northeast
The purpose of this grant is to educate producers and local veterinarians in the use of, and practice of sheep AI both laparoscopic and vaginal. Farmers will also use what they learned to practice AI on their own farms and at the Extension Learning Farm in Canton. In addition we want to learn to collect and extend ram semen so that in the future we can purchase rams together and use them on multiple farms. Our long term goals include a stable of tested rams and eventually a test station to progeny test rams. Rams born to AI sires will be sold throughout the region improving both the income of the farmers selling them and the genetics of the farms buying them.
Our committee of farmers and Extension Educators interested in Sheep artificial insemination (AI) met twice during the year. We planned a workshop to learn more about collecting and extending fresh sheep semen. John Parks, Cornell University, planned to visit the lab we have set up at the Extension Learning Farm on November 16, 2014. Our committee agreed that we should use the few remaining funds to set up this program.
Unfortunately, Dr. Parks experienced a death in the family at the last minute and was unable to provide the training. We now have the training rescheduled for January 2015. The date is still being finalized.
Over the past year, Betsy Hodge and our intern, Molly Parent (from Vermont and a students at SUNY Canton in the veterinary science technology program), Harold Boomhower (cooperating farmer), and Ron Kuck (Extension Educator) have practiced collecting the older Dorset ram with limited success. We trained a ewe to stand and practiced synchronizing her to tempt the ram for collection. Our lack of success is what caused us to set up the training with Dr. Parks.
We have familiarized outselves with the laboratory equipment and added to it over the past year. We also worked on factsheets and dug up some more research. Repeated efforts to make contact with the French Insem Ovin institute have failed but we are trying another contact person.
Nine lambs were born as a result of the sheep AI workshop taught in September 2013. Six were born from frozen semen belonging to rams from Australia dn New Zealand by laparoscopy. Three were a result of fresh semen AI from our own Dorset ram. Two AI ram lambs are being used on two different cooperator farms. One set of twin rams is being used at the Extension Learning Farm in Canton, NY. The last ram lamb will be available to other cooperators or to the livestock programs at one of the SUNY colleges. We would like to place these rams where we can observe the offspring and the management styles. The ewe lambs will be retained by the Extension Learning Farm for now. Most of the ewe lambs were a result of the fresh semen AI from our own ram.
We did not present the results at the 2014 Sheep and Goat Symposium at Cornell but we hope to present it at the 2015 version.
The AI lambs that were born were featured in our Farm News and pictures were distributed on the email list, facebook and in the Farm News. Articles about the workshop were also included in the publicity.
If our fresh semen collection and extending workshop is successful we will talk about it at our spring Sheep andf Goat Week and try to recruit farms that would like to try breeding to several high quality rams we have as a result of the AI workshop.
If successful we will continue to try to purchase a ram that could be housed at the Extension Learning Farm and used for fresh semen AI. The ram could be collected and the semen shipped or delivered to farms where the ewes have been synchronized. So far, I don’t think farmers have been willing to contribute to a ram even though we have the funds to transport one to the area. Once we have established we can do the VAI it will be easier to convince farmers to go in on a ram.
See next section – grouped accomplishments there.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Nine lambs were born as a result of the sheep AI workshop and those genetics are being shared among the cooperating farms for now.
Other farmers have volunteered to let us try inseminating their ewes with fresh semen when we get better at collecting and extending fresh semen.
Several farmers (3) have expressed and interest in trying to cordinate bringing in someone to do laparoscopic AI in the area which would help keep all of our costs down. Several farms could share the travel costs and veterinarian costs. One challenge is the availability of semen from Europe. We are working on semen from New Zealand and Australia and maybe Canada.
Through another grant we have had a dummy ewe constructed to aid in collection of fresh semen. The dummy ewe holds the aritficial vagina. More work is being done on the dummy to provide padding and make it safe for the ram to mount. We will use the ewe dummy in our fresh semen AI collection and extension workshop.
Below are pictures of the AI sires, and the resulting lambs. Also listed are the best summaries and references we found while researching and setting up the workshops. We hope to make some factsheets with specific instructions after the workshop in January (with pictures). We found after the first workshop that we needed more pictures and specifics in order to do it on our own and we hope to provide that by the end of this grant.
- Ram lamb born in Feb 2014 from Laparoscopic AI workshop
- Ram lamb born Feb 2014 from AI workshop, triplet
- Best reference found on Fresh Semen AI
- Flyer for ram semen collection and extension workshop delayed until January 2015
- Artificial Vagina set up for collecting fresh semen
- AI sires from Australia and New Zealand
- AI sire from Australia and New Zealand
- Cutest ram lamb born in Feb 2014 to AI sire, triplet, it was very cold the day and night they were born (-17 dgrees F)
- Article about the lambs born as a result of the AI workshop
- Example of our committee meeting notes
- General article written by the first intern
- Example of ewe synchronization protocol
- Article on using Vaginal AI with thawed frozen semen.
- Summary of info collected on Fresh semen AI
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