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

2011 Annual Report for GNE11-015

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

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


The main goal of this project is to reverse the decline in the sheep industry in West Virginia (WV). Briefly, the technical and economic feasibility of three breeding programs will be compared. They are traditional breeding, out-of-season breeding (OSB), and an accelerated breeding program, in which the ewes will be bred out-of-season and then again in the Winter. By utilizing OSB, not only would there be a more consistent supply of lamb for consumers, but also the profitability of sheep producers would be increased. It is necessary to enhance profitability of sheep producers so that they are not forced to exit the increasingly competitive industry. To enhance profitability, some producers must be willing to shift from traditional breeding of sheep to out-of-season breeding. By switching, they are able to take advantage of the benefits of OSB, which include higher lamb prices at market, lower mortality rates due to parasites and predation, and increased ewe productivity. Despite the benefits of OSB, adoption of this system remains low among producers in WV. To target why adoption remains low, surveys will be mailed to all sheep producers in WV to see what factors influence the decision to shift to this type of breeding system. The results of this project will be presented and discussed with producers and stakeholders at annual meetings and workshops, and will also be available online via the WV Small Ruminant Project (WVSRP).

Objectives/Performance Targets

1. Evaluate the technical and economic feasibility of OSB programs in sheep production systems in WV

Farms that will be used to implement the OSB and accelerated breeding systems in the Spring have been identified. Traditional breeding with estrus synchronization was used in the Fall and lambing records will be collected in the Spring.

2. Determine the level of adoption of OSB in WV and identify the socio-economic factors which influence the adoption of this practice among sheep producers

A survey is being developed to identify the socio-economic factors which influence the adoption of OSB among sheep producers in WV. The survey will include farmer-specific attributes, farm-specific attributes, and perceived characteristics of OSB. Upon analyzing the surveys, significant variables will be identified and approaches to address the factors inhibiting adoption will be developed.

3. Increase awareness of the benefits of OSB

A presentation was given at a short course for producers to increase the awareness of benefits of OSB. Roughly 70 producers were present at the meeting and had the opportunity to ask questions. The material presented at the meeting will be available online at the WVSRP website,


Accomplishments include presenting information on the benefits of OSB to producers at a meeting, identifying farms on which to implement the breeding systems, and beginning to develop a survey to identify factors which influence producers’ decisions to adopt OSB. The work that still needs to be done includes mailing the surveys to the producers and collecting the lambing records in the Spring. We had originally planned to have the surveys completed and mailed out before the end of the year, however, there was not sufficient time to complete this task due to prior educational-related obligations. Otherwise, the project has progressed as expected, and there have been no changes in the plan of work thus far.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The short-term goals of this project are to encourage producers to strategically shift the breeding season of their ewes, and, in doing so, increase profitability of their enterprises. The long-term impacts of the project include improvements in the quality, quantity, and consistency of lamb supply; increased employment; increased productivity of existing agricultural lands; and maintenance of more environmentally sustainable productions systems. The knowledge gained from this project by the sheep producers in WV can potentially lead to more efficient farm practices, which, in turn, can increase productivity and eventually profitability of sheep enterprises. Increased profitability will allow producers to stay in business, thus causing an increase in sheep inventory in WV.


Brad Smith
WV Small Ruminants Project Director/WVU Grant County Extension Agent
115 1/2 Virginia Avenue
Petersburg, WV 26847
Office Phone: 3042574688
Dr. Marlon Knights
Assistant Professor
1044 Agricultural Sciences Building, PO Box 6108
Morgantown, WV 26505
Office Phone: 3042931946
Stephanie Simpson
Graduate Student
315 Rolling Hills Village
Morgantown, WV 26508
Office Phone: 3046804121
Dr. Doolarie Singh-Knights
Agricultural Economics Specialist
2038 Agricultural Sciences Building, PO Box 6108
Morgantown, WV 26505
Office Phone: 3042937606