Increasing Adoption of Out-of-Season Breeding to Enhance Profitability of Sheep Producers in West Virginia

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2011: $14,999.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Grant Recipient: West Virginia University
Region: Northeast
State: West Virginia
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Marlon Knights
West Virginia University

Annual Reports


  • Animals: sheep


  • Animal Production: inoculants, livestock breeding
  • Education and Training: extension, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, feasibility study

    Proposal abstract:

    The sheep industry in West Virginia (WV) has declined by 19% over the past ten years. The traditional production system employed by most sheep producers results in the majority of lambs marketed when annual prices are lowest. Additionally, it exposes lambs to high levels of predation and parasitism, and limits productivity of ewes, which reduces profitability and causes producers to exit the industry. In contrast, breeding ewes outside the normal breeding season allows producers to take advantage of higher lamb prices and can enhance ewe productivity by placing ewes in an accelerated breeding program. Thus, out-of-season breeding (OSB) can help small scale producers survive in an industry that is increasingly competitive and risky. Despite the benefits of OSB and development of approaches to enhance productivity, few producers have adopted this system. Therefore, the objectives of this study are to evaluate the economic and technical feasibility of OSB, to identify socio-economic factors which influence adoption, and to increase awareness of the benefits of OSB. Traditional, OSB, and accelerated lambing systems would be implemented on at least 10 farms. Technical and economic coefficients influencing profitability will be developed and presented to producers and agricultural service providers via workshops, publications, and field demonstrations. The study supports the goal of the American Sheep Industry “twoPLUS” plan and can lead to increased productivity and profitability of sheep enterprises, a reversal in the contraction of the industry, and greater sustainability of small-scale farming operations in Appalachia.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The general objective of this project is to contribute to agricultural sustainability by improving productivity and profitability of sheep producers in WV through improved breeding strategies. In order to accomplish this, the following specific objectives will be undertaken:
    1. Evaluate the technical and economic feasibility of out-of-season breeding programs in sheep production systems in WV.
    2. Determine the level of adoption of out-of-season breeding in West Virginia and identify the socioeconomic factors which influence the adoption of this practice among sheep producers.
    3. Increase awareness of the benefits of out-of-season breeding.

    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.