Low-Cost, Mobile Reproductive Labs for Better Sheep and Goat Breeding

Selected Doyogena ram for use in artificial insemination
Selected Doyogena ram for use in artificial insemination
  • Mourad Rekik - Principal Scientist - Small Ruminant Physiology and Management 


ICARDA established Africa’s first reproductive platform composed of a network of laboratories placed strategically to enhance the delivery of improved genetics for the major breeds of sheep and goats in Ethiopia. 


Ethiopia has one of the largest livestock populations in Africa, vital for smallholders and breeders’ livelihoods through household and sellable products such as meat, wool, and milk. However, scientific research efforts in identifying the best quality indigenous breeds for improved productivity and reproduction have been scant.  


To sustainably enhance the productivity of indigenous sheep and goat breeds in the country, ICARDA and its national Ethiopian partners developed mobile reproductive labs to complement their community-based breeding programs (CBBPs). The low-cost, low-infrastructure labs enhance the delivery of improved genetics and facilitate scaling across villages and communities.  


The network of laboratories - representing a co-investment between ICARDA and its Ethiopian partners, and supported by an important capacity development and training program - is unique in the African continent. It offers scheduled natural mating plans, estrus synchronization, fixed-time artificial insemination, and pregnancy diagnosis. It also optimizes fertility through focused management interventions.  


In addition, the platform facilitates the vital selection of certified sires that are genetically superior, fit for reproduction, and disease-free. The platform also screens against males and females that are reproductively problematic by spotting them for culling.  


ICARDA and partners provide technical staff, lead farmers, and experienced CBBP members with well-designed and focused training on sheep and goat reproduction and reproductive biotechnologies. 




  • Broad adoption of technologies and services: 6,000 households have benefited from or are exposed to services provided by reproductive platforms in twelve Ethiopian districts. An estimate of 540,000 adult female sheep in nine districts, and 370,000 adult female goats in three districts in Ethiopia have directly or partly benefited from services of the reproductive platform. 


  • Improved reproductive performance: the program achieved conception rates after artificial insemination of up to 50-60% in large field trials, as well as improvements in overall fertility in target flocks and increased number of offspring produced by the CBBPs’ flocks resulting from better management practices.   


  • Improved, locally accessible methods: the labs offer a range of services to support the delivery of improved genetics and for the enhancement of reproductive performance by rationalizing management practices. For example, the platform designs, implements and assesses an effective artificial insemination package with fresh semen based on the careful selection of non-pregnant females using ultrasound pregnancy diagnosis, estrous synchronization that consists of two injections of a prostaglandin analog eleven days apart followed by cervical fixed-time artificial insemination with fresh semen.  


  • Scaling of genetic gains to new geographies and breeds: widespread dissemination of genetic gain in the framework of CBBPs in Ethiopia. 

Further Reading: 


Mourad Rekik, Aynalem Haile, Abebe Atilaw, D Muluneh, S Goshme, Imene Ben Salem, Muhi El-Dine Hilali, Narjess Lassoued, Yeshimebet Chanyalew, Barbara Rischkowsky. (31/12/2016). GnRH and prostaglandin-based synchronization protocols as alternatives to progestogen-based treatments in sheep. Reproduction in Domestic Animals, 51 (6), pp. 924-929. https://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11766/6041 


Shanbel Yeshaw, Simret Betsha, Chekole Demis, Tesfaye Zewude, Mariem Rouatbi, Tesfaye Getachew, Aynalem Haile, Barbara Rischkowsky, Mourad Rekik. (4/9/2020). Field synchronization of Ethiopian Highland sheep for fixed time artificial insemination: improvement of conception rate with a double injection of prostaglandin at 11 days. Journal of Applied Animal Research, 48 (1), pp. 413-418. https://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11766/11892.  


Mourad Rekik, Tesfaye Getachew, Aynalem Haile, Barbara Rischkowsky. (31/1/2019). Reproductive Platform to Support and Scale Goat Breeding Programs: Ethiopia and Tanzania. https://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11766/9552