Importation of rams and semen
Owing to the fairly small size of the National breeding flock of British Vendéens it is necessary to be careful of inbreeding.
There are two realistic alternatives, the importation of rams or semen from France and rams or semen from Southern Ireland. There is a certain amount of hassle involved in importing a live animal from either country never mind forms and DEFRA, the said animal will not be MV accredited and will therefore have to have two blood tests and spend 6 months in isolation. I have bought ram lambs from both countries and used AI from France on several occasions.
The down side of buying a ram from either country is that when you see its lambs you may not like them or you may not like the ram a year on, so if buying; a ram lamb is the best bet as you can sell it as a shearling or two shear. Southern Ireland has a flock which is probably double the size of this country although they have a certain amount of English blood. However France has a large flock in fact The Vendéen is in the top three breeds in France numbers wise.
There is a large Artificial Insemination (AI) centre at Limoges which the Society has visited several times, here they have 68 Charollais rams, 48 Texels, 42 Vendéen plus another 80 rams of various other breeds.
All the rams in the AI Centre have come from the Vendéen ram lamb testing station. Where each year approximately 150 ram lambs from the top French breeders are sent at weaning to be evaluated, growth rates etc over a period of about three months. At the end of this period the top ten ram lambs each year go to the AI centre.
So if you do not want to buy a ram you can go to the AI centre and buy semen from several different rams. Laprascopic AI has to be carried out by specialist operators, to name two CBS Technologies and Britbreed. They will bring the semen from Limoges to their store until you want to use it.
Your AI operators will agree a date and time to inseminate your ewes which have to be sponged, they will send you a programme of what you have to do when; this programme has to be carried out by you to the hour, if you do not do what they tell you when they tell you, it will be a waste of your money and your ewes wont be in lamb.
Most of the rams at the AI centre are now scrapie genotyped at group 1 they have at least got their act together on scrapie testing. So the end result is that I will have ram lambs from the best French Bloodlines and ewe lambs for sale from July onwards. So in conclusion rather than buying one animal which you will have to use for two years, with AI you can try any number of rams and if you don’t like their progeny you wont use that ram again. It is necessary to go to Limoges to pick the rams you want to use as all of them are kept inside and some of their mouths leave a lot to be desired so the selection of rams with good mouths is imperative.