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In hope of re-creating a $5,000 sheep

Staff writer

After Sherry Nelson artificially inseminated four of her sheep last year, one had a $5,000 lamb. Hoping for similar success, she decided to repeat the process Friday with 25 of her ewes.

Artificial insemination in sheep is not as prolific as it is in cattle or pigs and is somewhat harder to do. The ewes need to be sedated and put upside-down in a cradle so a veterinary technician can have access to the uterus.

“Semen is inserted into the horns of the uterus, and then it’s a 50% to 60% inception rate,” Nelson said. “And then it has to be kept calm for 15 days, not stressed out, and taken care of. Then you can find out if they’re going to have babies.”

Two K-State students, two local farmers, and a veterinary technician were involved with the insemination at Nelson’s ranch in rural Lincolnville. They worked together to move, sedate, clean, and inseminate the sheep.

Veterinary technician Mike LaRosh did the operations. LaRosh owns his own flock of sheep in Olathe and partners with Nelson on some of the ewes.

The process is easier than bringing a prize ram out to the ewes; Nelson bought the semen from Harrell Club Lambs in Oklahoma. The sire, a ram named Machine, produced last year’s $5,000 lamb — named Snooky by Nelson — with one of Nelson’s 100 Dorset ewes.

Nelson has five stud rams of her own, including her prized ram Bigfoot. She sells semen to other breeders across the country to create prize-winning lambs.

“The more shows you win, the higher the demand, the more you get paid,” she said. “You mate what one sheep doesn’t have to another to make them better.”

The operations had to be quick and efficient, as sheep semen dies less than 10 minutes after being removed from a frigid liquid nitrogen tank. The ewes recovered from sedation in a similarly short time, getting to their feet a few minutes after being removed from the cradle.

“People in town need to learn how we do things. There’s so much information,” Nelson said in reference to organizations such as PETA publishing incorrect images and statistics.

Nelson’s lambs have sold to owners in California, Florida, and Pennsylvania. A few of Nelson’s Great Pyrenees’ yearly litters have sold to people in Maine.

She watched Snooky sell last year in Oklahoma to a Michigan buyer. She takes care of her 87-year-old mother, so helpers transported the lambs and got them show-ready.

“We all worked together so we could go to that sale,” she said.

Last modified Sept. 9, 2021

 

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