Alternative Norwegian sheep breeding schemes were evaluated by stochastic simulation of a breeding population with about 120 000 ewes, considering the gain for an aggregate genotype including nine traits and also the rate of inbreeding. The schemes were: a scheme where both young unproven rams (test rams) and proven rams (elite rams) are used in artificial insemination (AI scheme), a scheme with test rams in natural mating in ram circles and elite rams (from one and a half years of age) in AI across all flocks in the country (NMAI2 scheme), a scheme where, in addition to testing rams, the youngest elite rams (one and a half years of age) are also used in natural mating in ram circles, while older elite rams are used in AI (NMAI1 scheme), and a scheme, acting as a control, where both test and elite rams are used in natural mating (NM scheme). Within the NMAI- and AI-schemes, experimentation was performed for percent ewes inseminated to elite rams v. test rams (EM%), numbers of ewes inseminated per elite ram (EAIn), and numbers of ewes mated per test ram by natural service (TNMn) or by AI (TAIn), respectively. With a restriction on the rate of inbreeding (⩽0.8% per generation), the AI scheme gave similar gain to the NMAI2 scheme (and about 40% more than did the NM scheme). Less gain was generated by the NMAI1 scheme, but it was still considerably more than for the NM scheme (about 25%). In the AI scheme, relatively few ewes (200/300) should be inseminated to each test/elite ram, and a low EM% should be chosen (10%). In the NMAI schemes, TNMn should be relatively high (40 to 50), combined with average and somewhat larger than average EAIn (NMAI2: 700 ewes, NMAI1: 900 ewes), and EM% medium (30%).