Embryo transfer leads to a world’s first at county farm

Jamie Wood and Valentino - the world's first embryo transplant Swiss Valais Blacknose sheep.
Jamie Wood and Valentino - the world's first embryo transplant Swiss Valais Blacknose sheep.

The world’s first Swiss Valais Blacknose lambs to be born using an innovative technique have arrived at a Northumberland farm.

The amazing scientific breakthrough occurred at Prendwick Farm, Whittingham, following a programme undertaken by Edinburgh-based Innovis.

The first Swiss Valais lamb to be born using embryo transfer was a ram named Valentino.

Farm owner Jamie Wood said: “Swiss breeders have not used embryo transfer techniques on their sheep and the results from our first flushes are very encouraging.

“We’ve proven that it is possible to flush the breed and get viable embryos and resulting pregnancies using this method.

“The embryo transfer route will allow the flock to be built-up in a relatively inexpensive way. Two ewe lambs were sent to Edinburgh and Innovis oversaw the nutrition and management of the embryo transfer programme.

“The embryos were subsequently transferred into our own Suffolk cross-ewe lambs, resulting in seven single pregnancies, plus one ewe carrying twins.”

On top of this, Jamie has undertaken a cross-breeding trial using a Swiss Valais Blacknose ram on the indigenous Scottish Blackface gimmer ewe.

The result of this is the world’s first Blacknose x Blackface lambs, which were born last month.

The lambs are larger in size than the traditional Blackface and carry the distinctive blacknose markings. The lambs have less wool than their sire and carry a smooth skin, especially over the facial areas.

However, the resulting lambs exhibit the renowned docility and temperament of the Swiss Valais Blacknose in comparison to the acknowledged flighty characteristics of the Blackface.

Jamie said: “We are observing the early results of the mating. The temperament of the lambs has improved immensely. It will be interesting to see how the lambs develop and we’ve named the cross the Blacknose-Blackie.”