Sheep AI Offers Options 

sheep AI

Sheep AI

One little lamb, two little lambs, three little lambs…all with the same outstanding sire. Counting sheep can be a lot more fun when using the advanced reproductive technologies available to you. Artificial insemination (AI) is becoming more prevalent within the industry as a way to propagate genetics from proven sires from across the country. 

That’s why the Duraferm® team is here to provide information on what to consider when planning for sheep AI. 

No longer do you have to depend on your own herd sires to cover the ewes in your flock. The primary benefit of sheep AI is that you can utilize rams from across the country to enhance the genetics within your flock more quickly. 

Sheep AI is growing in popularity across the country. Though it is not as widely used as beef or dairy AI, more producers are turning to technology to enhance their flock’s progeny performance. 

Recently, our BioZyme® team visited with Matt Kennedy of Kennedy Livestock in Texas. Kennedy raises sheep and specializes in reproductive technologies; he performs sheep AI on about 9,000 ewes annually. He shared his best practices and advice he gives his clients to ensure they experience the best conception rates possible. 

Preparing Ewes Starts with Good Nutrition 

Kennedy said that a quality nutrition program is the most important way to prepare for sheep AI. Specifically, nutrition will aid any reproduction protocol. 

“Nutrition is the most important part of preparing for breeding,” he said. “Feeding a mineral like DuraFerm® Concept•Aid® will give the ewes the biggest advantage.” 

DuraFerm® is a line of nutritional supplements for sheep and goats that supports optimal digestion and nutrition for maximized performance at every stage of production. There are currently 4 sheep products in the DuraFerm line that will provide producers with the benefits of reproduction, resilience, and retention. 

Other Nutritional Considerations 

Not only is a vitamin and mineral package vital to your ewes’ health and reproductive success, but you will also want to have them on a balanced diet, Kennedy reminds. This includes a diet of lower carbohydrates and higher fiber, with plenty of high-quality native grass hay. 

Always ensure that your sheep have plenty of clean, fresh, cool water. 

Timing is Everything 

When setting up your ewes for sheep artificial insemination, it is likely one of the primary reasons you are selecting AI is for a tighter lambing window. This means you need to synchronize your ewes so that they will come into estrus or heat at the same time. 

Kennedy said he typically recommends a 12-day CIDR protocol when synching a group of ewes for breeding. With his protocol, the ewes are ready to breed 2 days after the CIDRs are pulled, so if you put the CIDRs in on a Monday, remove them 12 days later, and you will breed on a Monday. 

There are several protocols to follow. Everyone has a different management approach. Follow the system that works best for you and your schedule or that works best for your veterinarian or reproductive specialist. 

Protocol Example 

Below is just one example of a synchronization and breeding protocol:  

  • Day 0: Insert CIDR.  
  • Day 12: Pull CIDRs and inject with PG 600.  
  • Day 14: Breeding Day.  

Remember, our team is not comprised of veterinarians nor are they reproductive experts. The DuraFerm Team is not saying the process outlined in this blog is the only—or even the best—way to perform sheep AI.  We are merely providing some very basic education about the process. 

The veterinarian you work with may have equally viable but different protocols they prefer. That’s why it’s so important to consult with them.   

Sheep AI Day  

Once you have synchronized your flock, you are ready for AI day. There are 2 common AI methods used for sheep: cervical AI and laparoscopic AI. 

Laparoscopic AI 

Laparoscopic or surgical AI involves using a laparoscope to visualize the reproductive organs and directly deposit semen into the uterine horns. This method requires more specialized equipment and technical expertise.  

With the right help and enough workers, Kennedy said he can average about 50 ewes per hour, via laparoscopic AI. His conception rates are industry average, about 70%. 

Advantages of Laparoscopic Sheep AI  

Laparoscopic AI generally achieves higher conception rates because semen is deposited directly into the uterine horns, increasing the likelihood of fertilization.  

The use of a laparoscope allows precise placement of semen, improving accuracy and reducing variability.  

Laparoscopic AI is more effective with frozen-thawed semen, making it ideal for importing genetics or using preserved semen. 

Cervical AI  

Cervical AI involves introducing semen into the cervix or just beyond it into the uterus. This method is typically performed through the ewe’s vagina using a speculum to visualize the cervix.  

Advantages of Cervical Sheep AI 

Cervical AI is less invasive than laparoscopic AI, reducing the stress and discomfort for the ewe.  

It generally requires less specialized equipment and fewer technical skills, making it more affordable and accessible.  

Cervical AI requires basic training and equipment, making it easier for producers to learn and perform themselves.  

Final Considerations 

“Sheep are creatures of habit. Try to keep their routine as normal as possible to reduce their stress, when trying to get them bred and keep them bred,” Kennedy reminds. “It will be counterproductive to change a lot of their routine.”  

This means if they are used to being out on pasture, keep them out on pasture. They won’t readily adapt if they are brought in from pasture, put under fans for a few days when their CIDRs are pulled, and then turned back out to pasture after breeding. If possible, keep them in their natural habitat the entire time. 

Are you interested in how sheep AI is different from goat AI? Check out our blog.  

Let DuraFerm Help Strengthen Your Stock  

As we mentioned, we are not reproductive experts. However, as Kennedy pointed out, good reproduction starts with a quality nutrition program like DuraFerm. At DuraFerm we value care that comes full circle.  

That means we want to provide you with a great mineral for your flock as well as some timely educational information. Remember, we are just one resource, and we want you to work closely with your veterinarian and reproductive expert.  

The following products are sheep supplements in the DuraFerm line you should consider when selecting a mineral for your flock. 

DuraFerm® Concept•Aid® Sheep 

DuraFerm Concept•Aid Sheep is a free-choice vitamin and mineral supplement for sheep designed to support reproductive success. The loose mineral comes in a 50-pound bag. It contains AO-Biotics® Amaferm®, a prebiotic research-proven to enhance digestibility.  

This breeding mineral contains high levels of vitamin E for reproductive tract repair and supports embryo production and conception using organic trace minerals, including zinc, manganese and selenium. 

DuraFerm® Concept•Aid® HEAT® Sheep 

DuraFerm Concept•Aid HEAT Sheep is a free-choice vitamin and mineral supplement for sheep designed to support reproductive success when temperatures are above 70 degrees Fahrenheit. It comes in a 50-pound bag and contains Amaferm to enhance digestibility. 

DuraFerm Concept•Aid HEAT Sheep includes HEAT technology, a combination of essential oils and garlic, to support animals when heat and insects are a challenge. It supports embryo production and conception using organic trace minerals, including zinc, manganese and selenium. 

DuraFerm® Concept•Aid® Protein Tub Sheep 

DuraFerm Concept•Aid Protein Tub Sheep is a protein tub with vitamins and minerals for sheep designed to support reproductive success. The 125-pound tub also contains Amaferm to enhance digestibility and the Concept•Aid sheep mineral package in a 16% natural protein tub. 

This protein tub supports embryo production and conception using organic trace minerals and high levels of vitamin E. 

DuraFerm® ONE Sheep  

DuraFerm® ONE Sheep is a free choice vitamin and mineral supplement for sheep designed to promote performance year-round. The newest product in our line, ONE also contains Amaferm to enhance digestibility. 

DuraFerm ONE Sheep meets or exceeds nutrient requirements throughout the production cycle, and it is formulated with research-proven organic zinc for enhanced bioavailability. It also comes in a 50-pound bag. 

Get your DuraFerm Today    

If you are ready to invest in a nutrition program like DuraFerm, today is a great day for that. You can purchase DuraFerm products powered by AO-Biotics Amaferm. DuraFerm is available through the extensive BioZyme dealer network. Locate a dealer near you today. DuraFerm offers reproduction resilience and retention. What more could you ask for?  

Don’t forget to use our Sheep Gestation Calculator. This handy guide will help you with all your sheep breeding calculations.    

You can also gather more information about DuraFerm from our educational blog series or by signing up for our newsletter.  

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