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Australia’s biggest sheep AI data project set to yield big results

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Cally DupeCountryman
A freshly-shorn fleece.
Camera IconA freshly-shorn fleece. Credit: Cally Dupe/Countryman

One of Australia’s biggest universities is trying to get to the core of what factors influence the success of laparoscopic artificial insemination of sheep in world-first study hoped to reduce risk and bolster success rates for woolgrowers.

University of Sydney research fellow Jess Rickard this month put the call out for farmers to be involved with the project which is financially supported by Australian Wool Innovation.

Farmers this year running an artificial insemination program with more than 500 ewes and two sires have been encouraged to find out more about the project and volunteer to be involved with the third and final year of the program.

Data would be collected during the 2022-23 joining season and the final results of the program are expected to be revealed next year.

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The University of Sydney is conducting research to try and determine the factors that influence the success of laparoscopic artificial insemination of sheep through the collection of data on male and female factors in several AI programs nationwide across Australia.

Dr Rickard is the lead researcher on the project, which is also being carried out with PhD student Eloise Spanner and Prof. Simon de Graaf.

The long-term research was launched in response to anecdotal reports of variable fertility following AI as well as possible waning adoption rates in some parts of the country.

In the first two years, the project has collected semen from more than 300 sires and data on more than 25,000 ewes, forming the largest collection of sheep AI data in Australia.

Dr Rickard said a study of this type had never been undertaken in sheep and would establish a capability to predict the success of AI programs as well as recommend new semen standards for the artificial breeding industry.

“AI is a vital reproductive technology that underpins rates of genetic gain for seedstock producers and by extension the broader industry,” she said.

“This could reduce some of the risks associated with laparoscopic AI programs, increasing success rates and hopefully the adoption rate for woolgrowers.

“Ultimately this would ensure that woolgrowers can maximise the genetic benefits associated with using frozen-thawed semen from elite sires.”

To find out more about the project, contact Dr Rickard on 0421 633 775 or jessica.rickard@sydney.edu.au

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