Developing a breed registry for Polwarth sheep using imported semen and radio-frequency technology

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2017: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2020
Grant Recipient: Meadowcroft Farm
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:
Nanne Kennedy
Seacolors Yarnery at Meadowcroft Farm


  • Animals: sheep
  • Animal Products: fiber, fur, leather, breedstock


  • Animal Production: genetics, livestock breeding, App development for better utilizing RFID technology on wool breeds

    Proposal summary:

    Nanne Kennedy at Meadowcroft Farm has been developing and stabilizing a "homebred" Polwarth flock starting with an Australian Merino AI ram in 1991. Meadowcroft has culled aggressively for hardy, naturalized, fine wool genetics from animals that are parasite and hoof rot resistant as well as CL free. There are no known Polwarth genetics in the US and no breed registry. The demand and value of raw wool and woolens is increasing in the Northeast, specifically for finer grades, for which there is an insufficient supply or genetics.

    The subject of this grant is to import improved Australian Polwarth genetics and do Laparoscopic AI for two breeding years, with the intent of saving only those animals which are truest to breed standard and having the highest fleece weights after shearing. From these selected offspring, a breed registry will be developed.

    To track and manage field observations and flock production records, a Radio Frequency Identification tag system will be implemented and a Smartphone App will be integrated and expanded for specific use with computer backup. This will create management efficiencies and an audit trail protocol, while demonstrating and troubleshooting new technologies easily adapted to many other applications.

    Breeding stock as well as fresh semen will become available for sale in the fall of 2019, increasing values returned per ewe and optimizing the 26 year breed program. Outreach will include farm tours and production field days as well as a power point presentation at sheep clubs, Associations, and the Maine Agricultural Trade Show.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The specific goal of this project is to improve the genetics of my flock and increase the fleece weights with imported Polwarth Genetics via laparoscopic AI in the fall of 2017 and 2018. From this base genetics, I intend to create a breed registry, as the only verified Polwarth breeder in the US. The secondary goal of this project is to create a better, more efficient field record keeping system, using RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) with Bluetooth connectivity to smartphone technology that will interface with computerized record keeping as the basis for this registry.

    Objective 1. To clip more wool, comparing 20 years of fleece weights on lambs and hoggets, to the improved genetics’ fleece weights in 2018 and 2019.
    Objective 2. To have breeding rams, ewes and semen for sale by the summer of 2019.
    Objective 3. To develop a market protocol for culls as summer feeders on other farms, where I would buy back the wool at increased commercial value before slaughter.
    Objective 4. To expand the smartphone APP for sheep currently offered and recently released for RFID tags on sheep called Smart List.
    Objective 5. To make more money with sheep by adding value and creating efficiencies.

    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.