Laparoscopic insemination with frozen-thawed semen is currently used for planned matings in the Sarda breeding programme. In order to find a fast and less intrusive artificial insemination (AI) method that could replace laparoscopic insemination, a field comparison of laparoscopic and transcervical techniques was carried out on 200 mature Sarda ewes. After AI, ewes were assigned to teaser and fertile rams for 2 months. Return rates and cumulative (AI + natural mating) lambing rates were recorded over three subsequent 23-day periods. Lambing rates to AI were significantly different (P < 0·01), and were 62% and 7% respectively for laparoscopic and transcervical AI. Cumulative lambing rates after two further 23-day periods of natural mating were no longer significantly different (P > 0·05) and reached 82% and 74% respectively. Ewes with body condition scores at AI higher than 2·75 showed better overall reproductive performance, but not higher pregnancy rate to AI. Plasma cortisol concentrations, sampled twice, before and after AI, were higher (P < 0·01) in the last sample, suggesting a stress response to insemination. Cortisol levels after AI were lower (P < 0·01) for ewes submitted to transcervical rather than laparoscopic insemination (P < 0·01). However, cortisol levels after AI were no greater than those recorded when ewes were restrained in a milking yoke different from that usually employed. Laparoscopic AI was confirmed as the most suitable technique for insemination offrozen semen in the Sarda breeding scheme.