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Beyond the Bale : December 2018
The oldest frozen ram semen in existence was thawed out and inseminated this year as part of the 2018 Balmoral sire evaluation program – and the semen achieved remarkably high pregnancy and scanning rates. Frozen in 1968 by Dr Steven Salamon of The University of Sydney, the 50-year-old semen comprises a pool of semen from four rams of Ledgworth, Merryville and Boonoke genetics, owned at the time by the Walker family of Ledgworth (and latterly Woolaroo), Yass. Originally frozen to prove sperm could survive storage in liquid nitrogen (-196°C) for several years, this bank of semen is to the best of our knowledge the oldest in existence of any species (human or animal) anywhere in the world. Remarkably, pregnancy scanning results indicate that despite 50 years of storage the semen is as fertile as the day it was frozen, with pregnancy and scanning rates no different to the overall average of all sires (also artificially inseminated) in the Balmoral AMSEA program (see Table 1). The high fertility of this semen demonstrates that long term frozen storage of sperm is safe and reliably preserves genetics for future use, not just for agriculture but also human medicine. This is of particular importance to young male cancer patients who have stored semen prior to radiation treatment and/or chemotherapy who potentially may want to start a family decades later and are unable to conceive naturally. Beyond insights into artificial breeding and semen freezing technology, use of this semen also stands to showcase 50 years of genetic progress of the Australian wool industry. Comparison of the performance and appearance of lambs produced from the 50-year-old semen with those sired by the modern rams will be of great interest. Dr Steven Salamon conducting cervical artificial insemination of a ewe. PHOTO: The University of Sydney * number of ewes pregnant/number of ewes inseminated ** number of fetuses scanned/number of ewes inseminated †Combined fertility results of all remaining (n=19) sires Associate Professor Simon de Graaf defrosting semen frozen 50 years ago at ‘Kooringal’, Coleraine in Victoria, in April. 50-YEAR-OLD RAM SEMEN ACHIEVES HIGH FERTILITY This trial offers a remarkable opportunity to open a window to the industry’s past and in doing so also contemplate the future of sheep selection and genetics and what we might expect to see in 50 years’ time. The progeny will be on display at the Balmoral Sire Evaluation Field Day on Friday 22 February 2019 at ‘Kooringal’ at 2115 Coleraine-Edenhope Rd, Coleraine in Victoria. For researchers at The University of Sydney, looking down the microscope at sperm cells swimming for the first time in 50 years is a window to their history of sheep reproduction research and a reminder of the remarkable discoveries their predecessors made to enable the artificial insemination of sheep. AWI’s predecessors Australian Wool Research and Promotion Organisation (AWRAP), the Australian Wool Commission and Australian Wool Corporation co-funded much of this pioneering work. With continuing support from AWI, current research projects aim to build on this legacy and deliver the next generation of assisted reproductive technologies for the sheep industry. MORE INFORMATION Associate Professor Simon de Graaf, The University of Sydney, firstname.lastname@example.org, 0403 295 962 ‘Sir Fred’ (Tattoo: “L”) born in 1959, is one of four rams that contributed to the pool of semen frozen in 1968. Ledgworth purchased the ‘Sir Fred’, a Boonoke ram, in 1961 for 345 guineas. The photo was taken when Sir Fred was a 10-year-old. PHOTO: Peter Walker, ‘Woolaroo’, Yass. Semen type Pregnancy rate* Scanning rate** 50-year-old semen All other sires† 61% (34/56) 59% (618/1048) 82% (46/56) 80% (842/1048) Total 59% (652/1104) 80% (888/1104) Table 1: Pregnancy and scanning rate of ewes inseminated via intrauterine laparoscopy with pooled ram semen (four sires) frozen in 1968 and with semen from modern sires (19 sires) recently frozen.
In the Shops - March 2019