33Triplets I’ve read about this in a couple of places, interesting news about developments in artificial insemination (AI) for sheep. Historically, AI has been in limited practice with sheep, because it’s more technically complicated than for cows and pigs. My understanding is that the few people who do AI on sheep do it laparoscopically, which is expensive and not something laymen can do. (I think one local lady told me she pays a guy $200/ewe to travel up from Oregon to perform the services on her small flock.)  This unfortunately really limits our ability to improve the gene pool, as we cannot access sires from very far away without significant expense. So the hope that frozen semen and simplified techniques may make it possible is exciting indeed!

This second article cites that researchers have found that milk production and fertility have an inverse genetic relationship in Holstein dairy cows. Doh! This is why it’s important to monitor all important/desirable traits in a breeding program, and not get overly fixated on one particular productivity metric. As Katahdin sheep breeders embrace the National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP), keeping our eyes on pounds-per-ewe-weaned and parasite resistance, we have to keep in mind that breeding goals are broader than these two things! There are still other key quality factors to consider, like mothering instinct, climate hardiness, temperament, conformation, and shedding qualities.

And speaking of the NSIP, I read that plans are going forward for the program to move to being administered by LAMBPLAN. My understanding is that historically, the NSIP was developed and administered by Dr. Dave Notter and his graduate students at Virginia Polytech. But the program has gotten larger than is feasible for them to keep maintaining as essentially a “side job”, so the time has come to move it into the commercial space. The promise is that turnaround times for receiving your data will be very quick, whereas recently, it’s been taking several months. That was too long to be helpful in making breeding and cull decisions, so this new program should be more useful to breeders. I’m anxious to learn what the cost will be, though, especially for U.S. customers, since LAMBPLAN is based in NSW, Australia. News is supposed to be forthcoming.