SusAn - SusAn

Sustainable Sheep Production – SusSheP

Submission summary

The overall aim of SusSheP is to increase the sustainability and profitability of European Sheep Production by addressing key industry focused problems.
Sheep are unproductive (but carbon productive) until they produce their first lamb crop, normally at 2 years of age and, on average, ewes only produce 4 crops of lambs in their lifetime. Despite its importance both from an economic and environmental perspective ewe longevity is not included in sheep breeding indexes across Europe. SusSheP will establish the genetic factors controlling ewe longevity, under different Sheep Production Systems (SPSs) and assess if early life predictors (eg reared as single, twin etc) can be used to predict longevity. Parallel to this, SusSheP will identify the most carbon and labour efficient SPSs under different management systems (eg prolific vs non-prolific sheep breeds) in order to enable the development of strategies to reduce the labour input and carbon hoof print per kg of output.
The breeding of more efficient sheep has been hampered internationally by the lack of sheep artificial insemination, as the only effective method for use with frozen-thawed semen is a laparoscopic procedure, whereby, semen is injected directly into the uterus but this requires veterinary expertise, is welfare unfriendly and sociable unacceptable. The only exception to this is in Norway, in which vaginal deposition of frozen-thawed semen yields good pregnancy rates. Research in Ireland has demonstrated this is due to the breed of the ewe used in Norway, whereby sperm can transverse the cervix in greater numbers than in other breeds, leading to higher pregnancy rates. SusSheP will interrogate the differences across breeds in cervical physiology and its secretions (genes, proteins and glycans) with a view of developing a more sociably acceptable AI method. Finally, through the participation of strategically chosen SME’s, SusSheP will maximise knowledge transfer to industry, farmers and the scientific communities.

Project coordination

Xavier Druart (Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


Sheep Ireland
Maternal Sheep Group
SRUC Scotland's Rural College
NMBU Norwegian University of Life Science
Teagasc Teagasc
The Norwegian Association of Sheep and Goat Breeders
INRA Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique
UL University of Limerick

Help of the ANR 200,894 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: March 2017 - 36 Months

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