Although now a prosperous nation, Iceland for hundreds of years had been a poor, struggling colony of Denmark. Wealthy nations with lots of money and resources can weather economic storms or conquer disease outbreaks and move on, but in smaller or poorer nations disease outbreaks can have a huge effect on the economy and the ability of people to make a living. The Icelandic sheep and it's products account for 25% of the total agricultural output of that nation, and if an outbreak of something like foot and mouth disease occurred, it would be a serious setback. Having endured various disease outbreaks in centuries past, Iceland, possibly the most literate and well educated nation in the world, developed an innovative system by which they could eradicate some diseases like OPP (Iceland is the ONLY nation that has succeeded in doing this, ) and rabies, control other diseases like scrapie, plus prevent the possible spread of future disease outbreaks by dividing the nation into sections, quarantining each section from every other, and setting up semen stations to collect and distribute the breed's best genetics without the risk of animal to animal contact. The managers of each semen station scour the countryside looking for the most excellent rams they can find, evaluating their offspring by growth rate, lamb carcass grading index, conformation (overall body shape and stockiness), meatiness of the ram's various body parts, the prolificacy and milkiness of his daughters,and quality of the fleece. Most farms keep excellent performance records which help pinpoint the best animals, and the statistics are compiled nationally, making the selection of fine rams much more efficient. After bringing the best rams to the AI (semen) station, the rams are put in quarantine, and only after passing a battery of blood tests and further evaluation is their semen allowed to be drawn. The semen is distributed throughout the country, preventing any one quarantine district from becoming a distinct gene pool, as well as minimizing or eliminating the possibility of spreading disease. The Icelandic sheep in North America are still small in numbers and were not from one of Iceland's more excellent districts. Any small population of sheep will have a limited gene pool, hence our use of artificial insemination to broaden our genetic base and improve the quality of our animals. In a recent development, Dr. Thorsteinn Olafsson of Iceland had been working on a new AI procedure which the Icelanders would be willing to teach us if it was proven successful. Several of us in North America had expressed interest, and in the summer of 2003 we received the call to come to Iceland to be instructed in this new method. Only four of the nine farms that attended the seminar were able to use this new AI process in the winter of 2003. Northern Maine Icelandics was one of them and was rewarded with a number of excellent lambs. Two years previous to this, Gudmundur Johannesson, the Agricultural Advisor of the Southram semen facility, gave our shepherd Gary Holcombe a private hands-on session to show him just what excellent looked and felt like, and when in Iceland, Mundi instructed the nine farms further, teaching us the entire system of selection and scoring, including the use of ultrasound to measure the backfat and loin muscle thickness of our animals. Here at Northern Maine Icelandics, our application of these precise methods have shown rapid results. Being able to pinpoint the weaknesses in our own individual sheep and knowing how to interpret Iceland's statistics properly, we are dramatically empowered to select just who we need to correct those deficientcies, the end result being a higher quality flock with better lambs to sell to other breeders, meatier cuts with less fat for the lamb consumer, finer wool for the fiber artist, and be able to develop all these attributes in the same animal! Icelandics North is TOUGH. We do not accept an animal just because he may be among the best in Iceland, he must meet our discriminating standards and goals as well. All lambs (including the AI lambs) are put through rigorous selection techniques, and we cull hard, even as much as 1/3 of the flock each year! A continual injection of excellent AI genetics with severe culling yields rapid improvement in the overall consistency and quality level of the flock. Maintaining such high standards is very expensive, but the results are well worth it, saving money for the person who buys livestock from a flock that maintains such high standards. It is the big, brawny, fast-growing and healthy lamb that yields the best return on your investment, possibly saving you some money in the long run, and giving the most satisfying results. AI ram descriptions can be seen on our own AI SIRES webpage, and also by visiting the list of Hrutaskra ram (past) catalogs including the Southram semen station of Iceland.