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Why High-Tech Breeding Moves to Sheep

Why High-Tech Breeding Moves to Sheep
AI process that involves surgery opens many doors.

Stan Poe, Franklin, pointed to the picture of an outstanding ram on the wall of the small office next to the 'operating room' he and his sons built onto the front of a ram barn recently. "That was our best stud ram in the Flock- Gauge," Stan says. "Gauge died recently"

But that's not the end of Gauge's progeny. Since sheep semen will keep for a long time when frozen in a nitrogen tank, like cattle semen, and since they had a large number of does collected from the prize ram before he died, they can still have offspring of him for quite a while.

It's all possible through the unique method of inseminating sheep they use. While it's not new technology, having been used on large flocks in New Zealand and Australia for a long time, it's relatively new to the U.S. The Poe's decided to invest in a facility so they could make it happen on their own farm. Once built, they decided to offer use of the room to other producers, custom breeding through this surgical procedure for those with maybe only a few sheep.

"It works for me," says Dave Parker, Greenfield, who maintains a small flock of sheep with his brother. Parker works off the farm. "We can breed to better rams this way. For our small flock, we couldn't afford to own an expensive ram.

Stanley Poe, Stan's son, says there are other reasons for developing and furthering this process. For one, if you've got a young ram who's not quite ready to take care of a flock of old ewes, but whom you think can improve the herd, you can get him started in the breeding program sooner.

For example, when the Poe's did the procedure recently, using the services of Tad Thompson, a vet near Sheridan, they were able to impregnate a large number of sheep to a March 2010 ram. Without this procedure, he may not have been big enough to physically breed some larger ewes. It basically gained a year on being able to use him.

Before the assembly line of preparing and inseminating sheep by surgery begins on breeding day, Poe collects semen from the young ram. Tad Thompson checks it for fertility right there in the work too. Once he's assured it's OK, within minutes, fresh semen is deposited in several ewes, one ewe at a time.

Thompson goes into other states to perform this same process. It gives sheep producers the same edge cattle and swine producers have in improving their herds at a much faster rate.

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