Background of the Export of Embryos and Semen

For decades South Africa has been home to unique goat, sheep and cattle breeds, and with the arrival of democracy and a new dispensation, new doors have been opening for our exports since 1992.

Owing to great demand for Boer Goat genetic material worldwide , Canada was the first developed country to establish a protocol with the RSA in 1994 for regular embryo imports. An export protocol was established with Australia in 1997 , followed by a protocol with Brazil in 1998.

South Africa’s health status on embryo exports

Regardless of great numbers of embryo exports to various countries since 1994, no case of disease transfer has so far been reported. As far as small stock is concerned, the RSA is free of foot-and-mouth disease, Scrapie, CAE, sheep and goat pox, Nairobi sheep disease and Contagious Caprine Pleuropneumonia.

South Africa is therefore one of the few countries worldwide that is Scrapie-free. Blue tongue is the only disease really endemic to Africa and that should be handled with caution. The Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute has developed a reliable test for ensuring the absence of the blue tongue virus. Rift Valley fever last occurred in South Africa in 1974 and a reliable test is available for ensuring negative donors.

The following securities are incorporated in an export protocol:

  1. Identification and certification of the farm of origin
  2. Quarantine periods of 30 days before and 30 days after embryo flushing
  3. Clinical health of all donor animals
  4. Pre-and post collection health tests for the following diseases
    • Viral diseases:
      • Blue tongue
      • Rift Valley fever
      • Wesselsbron disease
      • Maedi Visna

      Bacterial diseases: Brucella ovis, Brucella mellitensis, Brucella abortus

  5. Prescribed washing procedures for embryos, as well as embryo freezing, packing and storage, according to I.E.T.S. standards
  6. Every consignment of embryos is accompanied by an official veterinary certificate
  7. Embryo Centres and Team Leaders for embryo exports. The South African Depart- ment of Agriculture is responsible for the inspection and registration of Artificial Insemination and Embryo centres. SAVSEG co-ordinates the examination and registration of embryo team leaders, ensuring that only vets with the necessary knowledge and experience are involved in certified exports

Contribution of Breeder’s Assocations

All exports must be accompanied by an approval from the breeders’ association concerned. This ensures that only registered stud breeders may be involved in embryo or semen exports. Breeders’ associations also stipulate that donor animals must meet all the breed standards of the breed concerned. This ruling ensures proper quality control of exports.

Export with a special import permit

Exports may also take place provided that the importer can obtain a special import permit. The importing country stipulates the requirements and the importer must first submit a permit before the final negotiations can take place. SA stud breeders may present an existing protocol as an example.

Export of frozen semen

Where a breed has already been established in a country, there should be a sustained demand for the semen of top rams in the RSA. Semen is regarded as a greater health risk than embryos – mainly because semen, unlike embryos, cannot be repeatedly washed. The same testing procedures applied to embryo donors may also be applied to AI rams and “safe” semen can be produced.

Export of live animals

Globally the transport of live animals is considered a great health risk. A quarantine period in an insect free area is usually required. Air transport is expensive, but it is a better option for countries that do not have the technology and management of embryo transfer. Various successful exports of live animals have been undertaken.


Potential importers must continually be urged to exert pressure on their governments to establish an import/export protocol with the RSA, allowing them access to the best breeding material and along a direct, safe route.

Stud breeders must make sure that their breeds remain in the forefront by implementing modern breeding techniques and proper scientific selection methods. Southern Africa must always be the very best source of the unique , world class leading sheep and goat breeds like the Dorper , Dohne Merino , South African Mutton Merino ,Boer goat, Savannah goat and Kalahari Red!