Field day trainings to enhance sheep health and productivity

Project Overview

Project Type: Education Only
Funds awarded in 2023: $45,000.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2025
Grant Recipient: Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
Region: Southern
State: Texas
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Reid Redden
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
Jake Thorne
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension


  • Animals: sheep


  • Animal Production: animal protection and health
  • Education and Training: demonstration, technical assistance

    Proposal abstract:

    The US sheep industry only produces roughly half of domestic demand for lamb.  With low supply, market value of lambs at auction has approximately doubled in the last 10 years, which provides significant opportunity for new and existing sheep farmers and ranchers.  Traditional sheep breeds and management systems have focused on extensive management common to semi-arid environments.  Recent developments in breeding technology has demonstrated that sheep can be selected to thrive in higher rainfall, pasture-based systems common to the Southern region.  Specifically, to improve sheep's ability to naturally resist internal parasites, while producing large lamb crops that can reach market weight in less than a year.  The National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP) provides seedstock breeders the tools and technologies to quantitatively accomplish this goal.  Seedstock breeders use NSIP to generate estimated breeding values (EBVs) for a variety of traits, such as growth, litter size, parasite resistance, and carcass merit.  Commercial producers can then source breeding animals that are equipped with the genetic potential to thrive in pasture-based systems not commonly used for sheep farming.  This technology has been proven to work in other livestock species and sheep producers across the world.  However, the US sheep industry has been slow to adopt this technology.  Fortunately, there are innovative sheep breeders that have committed to this and they have been able to document impressive advancements.  For the Southern region, Katahdin breeders have been the leaders in this field.   Furthermore, genetic potential can only be expressed under the appropriate management system, which will vary from farm to farm.  Our goal is to host five field days spread across the Southern region at innovative sheep farms to educate and demonstrate how to apply these technologies and management systems.  The first objective is to provide hands-on educational events to train sheep farmers on how the NSIP program to generate EBVs for the betterment of the sheep industry.    This will include how to collect performance data and how this data is translated into EBVs.  Then work with attendees on how to interpret the information to make the most informed genetic selection decisions for their unique operations.  The second objective is to provide educational tools and trainings on how whole farm management practices, such as targeted nutrition, multi-species grazing, and integrated parasite management, will complement optimal genetics to sustainably produce a healthy animal for market.  The third objective is to build a social network of like minded farmers in a region that can share insights and knowledge during and after the event.  This education grant is a continuation of a USDA-SARE professional development grant that Texas A&M AgriLife coordinated in the West Central Region of Texas.  This educational grant would take the learning outcomes and successes from the prior grant to rest of the Southern Region of the US. 

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This proposal addresses 4 major objectives:

    1. Educate sheep farmers and ranchers on emerging genetic technologies to improve animal health and performance, specifically targeting selection of sheep for internal parasite resistance and production parameters fit to environment.
    2. Educate sheep farmers on how to match genetic potential of sheep and sustainable flock management strategies, such as multispecies grazing, targeted nutrition, selective deworming, rotational grazing, and flock performance data management, to optimize the entire farming system.
    3. Demonstrate these genetic technologies and production practices that have been successfully applied by farmers in 5 different environmental regions within the SARE southern section.  
    4. Provide networking opportunities for sheep farmers and ranchers with each other and educators.
    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.