A new sexed semen service for UK sheep producers has been launched by artificial breeding technology company AB Europe in association with Cogent UK.
Whilst sexing sheep semen was initially carried out 30 years ago, limited commercial trials have since been carried out and commercialisation has been slow, unlike sexed semen in cattle which now accounts for one in three bovine artificial inseminations (AI) in UK herds.
Using sexed semen can help farmers increase the rate of genetic gain by increasing the percentage of females or males born and, subsequently, improving flock efficiency and profitability.
Farmers have the choice of 2M, a low dose of two million sperm cells/ml for commercial AI, or SexedULTRA 4M semen, which contains twice the concentration of 2M, and can be used either within pedigree flocks using embryo transfer (ET) as part of their regular breeding programmes or to enable the use of frozen SexedULTRA 4M semen in normal AIs.
The semen can be processed either way – an X sort for female and a Y sort for males.
AB Europe vet James Mylne said: “The technology is set to mirror the results achieved by bovine genetics and artificial breeding companies which now offer 90% gender accuracy and equivalent AI conception rates.”
Last year, in conjunction with Cogent UK, AB Europe carried out large-scale sexed semen trials in separate flocks featuring a total of 400 commercial horned ewes.
They were inseminated with low density, 2M fresh semen and achieved a 77% conception rate, 199% scanning percentage and 97% of female lambs born.
The females were destined as replacements and enabled the farmers to largely remove lower-value male lambs.
The trial conception rate compares with an average 85% achieved by normal laparascopic AI service in commercial hill sheep.