New export deal allows UK sheep genetics to be sent to US

Sheep breeders in the UK can now export genetics to the US, in an agreement estimated to be worth more than £750,000 in the first year of trade.

A new ovine embryo export health certification went live this week, allowing UK sheep breeders access to the all-important American market – following a 26-year absence.

Various breeds including the Suffolk, Texel, Charollais and many Heritage breeds could benefit from the new agreement with interest in their genetics on the increase in the US.

Sheep breeders in the US have been looking to bring in fresh genetics of some of the UK breeds since the market closed. The resumption of UK ovine semen imports in 2016 has allowed this, but the promise of embryos now ensures pure-bred sheep to be taken directly to UK flocks as required.

Around 10,000 doses of semen are expected to arrive in the US by the end of 2022 – retailing at up to $100 per dose. It is expected that 2000 commercial embryos will follow, worth between $450 and $1000 each.

The news follows more than 20 years of collaborative work between AHDB, Defra, the National Sheep Association, the UK Export Certification Partnership and Henry Lewis from the British Livestock Genetics, who has seen this development from the very start of the discussions. It also comes hot on the heels of last month’s reopening of trade in sheep meat, which saw British lamb once again in American shoppers’ baskets.

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