Amhara / Animal Breeding / Ethiopia / Livestock / Sheep / Value Chains

Oestrus synchronization in sheep: A promising intervention

Synchronization hormone being injected to sheep
LIVES Project in Amhara region is introducing new livestock and irrigated crops improvement technologies in its target sites. One of the new livestock technologies initiated by the LIVES predecessor project (Improving Productivity & Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers), and being supported by LIVES is Oestrous Synchronization and Mass Artificial Insemination (OSMAI)in cattle. The OSMAI in cattle has now been fully taken-up by the Regional Livestock Resource Development and Promotion Agency (RLRDPA) and its zonal and district offices. The current support from the LIVES project on OSMAI in cattle is limited to generating scientific evidence that can help fine-tune the approach and efficiency of the technology under different farming conditions.

The application of OSMAI technology is not limited to cattle. It is an accepted technology for all livestock species including sheep in developed countries. From our professional experience and ongoing genetic improvement activities in the region, we realized the usefulness of hormone assisted estrus synchronization in sheep. Estrus synchronization in sheep enables the use of artificial insemination (AI) from genetically superior rams and as a result, reduces the cost of importing and keeping exotic rams for breeding purposes. It also facilitates application of fixed time AI without detecting heat. Synchronized mating results in synchronized lambing and consequently leads to production of the same age and size lambs that are convenient for group marketing, vaccination and feeding. By using programmed estrus synchronization, lambing season can be adjusted to seasons where disease, parasite and predators are less prevalent and better forage is available for lambs and ewes – both of which improve lamb survival. If required, twin/multiple birth can also be induced by use of Pregnant Mare Serum Gonadotropin (PMSG) as synchronization protocol. Cognizant of the aforementioned benefits of hormone assisted estrus synchronization, the Amhara region LIVES project team, in consultation with head quarter staff and Amhara RLRDPA, tested the first round estrus synchronization in sheep at the Debre Birhan Sheep breeding and Multiplication center.

The purposes of the tests are to train livestock experts and veterinarians on synchronization techniques and protocols; to check effectiveness (ability to induce heat and pregnancy) of simplified and cost effective synchronization protocol using Prostaglandin hormone in local (Menz) and crossbred (Menz X Awasi) ewes and to some extent, enhance supply of improved breeding rams to smallholder farmers in LIVES target zones. The preliminary trial indicated that Prostaglandin is effective in inducing synchronized heat and lambing both in Menz and Awasi ewes.Lambs born from synchronized estrus

Since estrus synchronization technology is new to many producers and livestock specialists in many areas of the country, further capacity development work is required. Alternative user friendly hormones and synchronization protocols have to be tested in government and private sheep breeding and multiplication centers and in smallholder farmers’ sheep flocks.  Since rectal palpation to detect fetus in the sheep is not possible, cost effective pregnancy detection devices need to be made available. To maximize merits of estrus synchronization as a genetic improvement tool, synchronized ewes should be artificially inseminated with frozen semen from genetically superior rams.


Written by Zeleke Mekuriaw (PhD) with contributions from the LIVES Amhara team 

2 thoughts on “Oestrus synchronization in sheep: A promising intervention

  1. May I have the mail address of Zeleke Mekuriaw for further interaction. My name is Mourad Rekik, reproductive physiologist and senior livestock scientist at ICARDA. I am already involved in some work in Ethiopia as part of CRP Livestock and Fish.

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