New Method to Eliminate Ovine Progressive Pneumonia in Sheep Flocks in North Dakota

Final Report for FNC13-929

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2013: $18,250.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: North Central
State: North Dakota
Project Coordinator:
Rick Schmidt
NDSU Extension Service
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Project Information



My personal operation consists of 70 ewes and 3 rams on an average year. The ewes are drylotted about 8 months out of the year. A rotational grazing system as well as aftermath grazing is utilized the remainder of the year.


This project included 14 additional flocks from across the state with different management styles.


Our operation has worked with cover crops for the past ten years for grazing and as a stored feed supply for the sheep and cows. Beginning in 2004, all of the sheep have been DNA tested and production records kept on every animal.





  • To determine the prevalence of Ovine Progressive Pneumonia in many of the purebred sheep operations across the state of North Dakota.
  • Use the information to assist those producers as well as other sheep operators across the state with new tests and technology to reduce the instances of the disease.


Dr. Jim Kirsch and Dr. Reid Redden were the two individuals who drew the blood samples from all of the sheep tested to maintain credibility with the results. They are very experienced Doctors who have conducted several sheep research project previously. The results were interpreted by Dr. Redden as well. The confidentiality is very important and individual data was disseminated only to the producer who owned the sheep. The overall breed information and project summaries were shared with the producers and at public sheep seminars. There were over 750 sheep that were blood tested to obtain the database.



  • Dr. Reid Redden – NDSU Sheep Extension Specialist – Analysis of Data, sample collector
  • Dr. Jim Kirsch – NDSU Animal Sciences Department – sample collector
  • Rick Schmidt – Oliver County Extension Agent – Sheep handler and Purebred Suffolk producer
  • Dr. Chris Schauer – Hettinger Research Center – Director – presentations and Purebred Polypay producer.
  • North Dakota Lamb and Wool Producers Association
  • Matt Benz-Mercer County Rambouillet producer
  • Brent Kuss – Stutsman County Dorset and Polypay producer
  • Jannell Lagein – Towner County sheep producer
  • Luke Lillehaugen – Ramsey County Katahdin producer
  • Dave Pearson – Adams County Suffolk, Rambouillet, and Montadale producer
  • NDSU – State Hampshire and Columbia flock
  • Jason Schmaldtz – Eddy County Katahdin producer
  • Wyman Scheetz – Oliver County Columbia producer
  • Todd Sears – Cass County Commercial producer
  • Severance Family – Dickey County Commercial producer
  • Curt Stanley – Burleigh County Dorset producer
  • Dean Swenson – Richland County Commercial producer
  • Lyle Warner – Burleigh County Rambouillet producer



The results were interesting and maybe somewhat surprising. Of the flocks that we tested, more than half of the flocks had at least one mature ewe that was DNA tested positive for OPP. Some of the flocks were 100% free and some flocks had very high instances of OPP. It didn’t necessary follow a particular breed, but may be traced back to certain blood lines within an operation.



OPP has been thought to be one of the main reasons sheep are culled from various flocks. Even so, not many producers know about OPP or have a good understanding of what the symptoms are. If it is thin ewes, hard bags, open ewes, most producers just sell the bad ewes and don’t ask questions. I think this project had been very educational for purebred and commercial producers to better understand the disease. The plan to test various breeds of sheep from locations across the state as well as test enough to build an adequate sample was necessary. Most producers in the sheep business know at least one of these producers and can relate to their operation.



I am enclosing a program that Reid and I put together from the project that we worked on. It has a lot of the data from the various breeds and producer that we worked with.



The project procedures, protocols and results were talked about at the North Dakota Lamb and Wool convention, North Dakota Lamb and Wool Expo, ram sales and the Beginner Sheep Schools. The project was also published in the North Dakota Lamb and Wool magazine. There were approximately 200 attendees at the NDLWPA convention, many that attended as a result of the OPP discussions. We are estimating that we reached approximately 450 of the 600 plus sheep producers in state with the results of this project.



First I would like to say thank you to the Administrative Council for providing funds for many very successful projects that have been conducted through the SARE program. In many regards the projects are simple to sign up for and are asking relevant and pertinent questions. At times it is difficult to find the forms and navigate the website.



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  • Rick Schmidt


Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.