Stricter Measures On Imported Semen Endanger Future Of The Icelandic Goat - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Stricter Measures On Imported Semen Endanger Future Of The Icelandic Goat

Published February 18, 2019

Andie Fontaine
Photos by
Art Bicnick

Efforts to have a backup stock of Icelandic goats in the US, in case anything should befall the population in Iceland, has run into a bureaucratic snag: USDA regulations on imported semen.

WGME out of Maine ran an extensive article about The Beau Chemin Preservation Farm, which is trying to become a sort of “back up source” for Icelandic goats. Iceland’s current population, though well loved, is nonetheless vulnerable on the isolated island.

However, Icelandic goats cannot by US law be exported to the United States, and so the solution they came up with was artificial insemination. Jo Ann Myers, who along with her husband Wayne owns the farm, imported 100 straws of Icelandic goat semen which she used to inseminate Oberhasli dairy goats, due to their genetic similarity.

While the farm now has 17 goats, some of whom are reportedly up to 87% Icelandic by now thanks to generational breeding, these goats will never be 100% Icelandic. But even artificial insemination has run into new obstacles—namely, updated USDA regulations on the importation of sheep and goat semen. This includes “stricter biosecurity measures to prevent the spread of disease, including extended quarantines for bucks providing semen and more extensive testing for disease.”

“The current regulations [we are] required to follow [regarding] importing semen and the really strict biosecurity rules really make it a huge effort to draw goat semen,” Myers told WGME. “[The Icelandic semen collection facilities] do a lot more sheep semen, so there is a tremendous amount of lead time.”

Myers has pinned a lot of her hopes on her male goats, who reportedly have a higher percentage of Icelandic DNA, and could conceivably be used on other farms who want to follow The Beau Chemin Preservation Farm’s model.

“There are probably a dozen people across the country who have expressed some interest,” Myers told reporters. “We’re kind of stuck right now, but we’re not giving up.”

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