- Animals: sheep
- Animal Production: genetics, livestock breeding
- Education and Training: extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop
- Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
Little improvement has occurred in productivity of sheep in the U.S. over the last three decades. Evaluation of rams consigned to the WV ram test over the last 15 years indicates that little improvement occurred in key traits, which is partly due to limited availability and use of genetic information. Selection of sheep based on genetic information increases productivity. Lambs from genetically evaluated rams gained 4 lbs over a 120-d period, representing an increase in revenue of $650.00 per 100 lambs (~$200,000/yr in WV). To enhance genetic evaluation, the National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP) recently adopted the program Lambplan, which is a genetic evaluation system. Lambplan allows producers faster access to a larger number of economically important traits. Only 4 flocks from WV and surrounding states are enrolled in NSIP. Therefore, the potential benefits of Lambplan are unlikely to be realized by producers in this region. To address this problem, we propose to encourage and train producers to make selection decisions based on genetic information, increase access to genetically superior animals by supporting the enrollment of flocks in NSIP’s Lambplan, and encourage consignment of lambs from registered flocks into the WV Ram and Buck Test. Benefits of this program include increased availability, demand and price for animals with known genetic values and, ultimately, increased productivity and profitability of sheep producers. These benefits are consistent with the goals of increasing the numbers of animals genetically evaluated and used in commercial flocks, and increasing flock productivity by 2%, which are set by NSIP and the American Sheep Industry (ASI), respectively.
Project objectives from proposal:
To increase the use of genetic information in selection decisions and increase availability of genetically evaluated animals the following activities are proposed:
1. Four (4) workshops will be conducted to increase understanding of genetic evaluation and the use of traits evaluated by NSIP/Lambplan in selection decisions of producers,
2. Ten (10) flocks will be enrolled in the NSIP/Lambplan system,
3. Forty (40) rams from flocks enrolled in NSIP will be consigned to the WV Ram and Buck Test and Sale, and
4. Producers will be encouraged to incorporate genetics from flocks already registered in NSIP/Lambplan. To increase knowledge on the use of genetic evaluation in selection decisions and of the NSIP/Lambplan system, a standard workshop will be delivered which will include the following:
Part A: 1. Getting your Genetics right- Commercial and seedstock/purebred producers will be asked to identify and rank the traits of interest to facilitate sharing of information between commercial and purebred breeders and to demonstrate how BVs can assist in improving traits identified.
2. Approaches to selection of breeding animals –
3. Benefits of knowing the genetic value of animals using genetic evaluation in selection of animals–
4. Developing Breeding Objectives- how to? What factors must be considered in developing breeding objectives?
5. Traits and Indices evaluated in flocks/animals enrolled in NSIP/Lambplan-what traits and indices measure? What data must be collected? How traits impact productivity and profitability of the sheep enterprise?
6. The NSIP/Lamplan system- Getting started a. Getting enrolled in Lambplan- process and cost b. Collecting and inputting data in Lambplan c. Generating reports in Lambplan d. Interpreting Breeding values of different traits and indices e. Using BVs to make management decision for your farm f. Marketing your genetically evaluated animal.
Part B: Getting your Genetics Right:
1. Information provided in Part A will be used to demonstrate how BVs of animals might be used to improve traits of interest. To increase use of and access to genetically evaluated animals the following will be done: 1. 10 flocks will be registered in the NSIP/Lambplan sytem.
2. Additionally, 40 animals from these flocks will be entered in the WV Ram and Buck Test (minimum of 20 each year) so as to compare performance (growth and carcass characteristics, and to allow commercial producers to purchase rams from flocks registered in NSIP/Lambplan
3. Support the use of rams already registered in NSIP/Lambplan from outside the region by encouraging pool purchase of rams and the use of artificial insemination. In addition to developing a cadre of producers competent in using genetic information in selection decisions, the benefits of this program will include enrollment of 10 new flocks in NSIP/Lambplan, leading to increased availability and demand for and use of animals with known genetic values and, ultimately, increased productivity and profitability of sheep producers.
August to December 2014: 1. Advertise and complete workshop pre-registration 2. First of 4 workshops held on using genetic information to select animals and enrolling in the Lambplan genetic evaluation system 3. Data recording forms distributed and farm visits made to discuss breeding and reporting requirements 4. Project personnel and partners enroll ten (10) participating farms in Lambplan
February to March 2015: 1. One (1) additional workshop held on using genetic information to select animals and enrolling in the Lambplan genetic evaluation system 2. Project personnel and partners collect and submit lambing data to Lambplan 3. Partners consign 20 animals to Ram and Buck test 4. Partners meet and discuss sourcing of genetically evaluated animals
April to July 2015: 1. Conduct workshops on using genetic information to select animals and enrolling in the Lambplan genetic evaluation system during the Annual Ram and Buck Test and Sale 2. Collect, analyze and discuss data on performance of animals consigned to the WV Ram and Buck Test during farm visits 3. Write and publish article in WVSRP quarterly bulletin 4. Discuss with producers selection using performance data 5. NSIP/Lambplan enrolled rams sourced
August to December 2015: 1. Final workshop conducted on using genetic information to select animals and enrolling in the Lambplan genetic evaluation system 2. Discuss with producers reports from Lambplan and use them in making selection and breeding decisions 3. NSIP/Lambplan enrolled rams used in breeding flocks
January to July 2016: 1. Project personnel and partners collect and submit lambing data to Lambplan 2. Partners consign a minimum of 20 animals to Ram and Buck test 3. Performance data collected and compared to contemporary rams 4. Write and publish article in WVSRP quarterly bulletin
Dissemination of Project Results:
Four (4) comprehensive educational programs on “Using genetic information to select animals and enrolling in the Lambplan genetic evaluation system” will be conducted. These workshops will be widely advertised through our website and through the use of our sheep producer contact list and via extension agents. A total of 50-80 field visits would be made to our key cooperating partners (5-8/collaborating producer). The cooperating producer will be asked to play the key role in determining traits to emphasize in selection, will collect the relevant data and will be trained to submit data to Lambplan. A total of 10 farms will be enrolled in Lambplan- project personnel will work directly with producers to have flocks enrolled. A minimum of 40 rams will be consigned to an evaluated in the WV Ram and Buck Test. Progress reports and results will be presented at our annual short course and during the educational portion of the Ram and Buck test in both years of the project.
The results of the project will be further disseminated via the internet on the WVSRP website and in the press through the WVSRP newsletter “News Ewe Can Use”, which is distributed to over 1,100 producers. Additionally, the project would be conducted in collaboration with the county extension agents. These agents would be aware of the results and would be a direct conduit to producers. The project team will make themselves available as resource personnel for the educational meetings conducted by extension agents.