Use of Fresh Semen Insemination to Improve Genetic Progress of Icelandic and Katahdin Sheep in Maine

Our goal is to provide local sheep producers with the tools and expertise to use chilled semen artificial insemination (AI) as a tool on their farms.  Currently, most lambs in Maine are produced through natural breeding with on-farm rams. AI has many advantages over natural breeding that will increase animal health and farm profit, including greater access to superior genetics, increased farm biosecurity, and the ability to market ram genetics to distant farms.  Although this project is focused on Icelandic sheep breeders because of the known efficacy of AI in this breed, we also plan to perform limited on-farm AI on farms that raise the regionally popular Katahdin breed.  Working with these two sheep breeds will likely result in increased awareness of Ai in 50% of the sheep farms in Maine, and could result in economic returns of over $100,000 per year in increased livestock value and better health. Results from these trials will be communicated to sheep producers through the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s electronic resources, and through local and regional meetings of Icelandic and Katahdin sheep producers.  We are also willing to produce and distribute a video summary of our project for distribution to producers.

Investigator: Jim Weber

Award period: 5/1/2016–9/1/2017