Round 2 -- Funded Projects, 2016

Optimal Ag Consulting, Inc.


Since the fall of 2012, we have offered a total of 14 webinars in cooperation with the American Sheep Industry (ASI) Association and the Let’s Grow Committee. The presently proposed project will fund five additional educational webinars for sheep producers and aspiring sheep producers during 2016. As a result of this project, over 400 sheep producers across the U.S. are expected to benefit from attending live educational webinars on timely and important topics that can help them be successful in today’s challenging world. In addition, recordings of the webinars are expected to provide over 4,000 more participants access to these educational events by the end of the project.


PROGRESS REPORT -- Scheduled Webinars:

Webinars from all funding cycles can be accessed through the Resouces tab of the Let's Grow Website. Webinar Archives.

March 29, 2016
Producer Groups: What Are These About, How Do They Work, And Why Can They Be So Successful
Dr. Woody Lane and Dave Ollila
Registrants: 262 / Attendees: 112
Recording of Event: Producer Groups
Copy of Slides: PowerPoint Presentation

May 24, 2016
A Journey: The Opportunities and Challenges of Melding Genomics into U.S. Sheep Breeding Programs
Dr. Ron Lewis, Department of Animal Science, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Registrants: 227 / Attendees: 83
Recording of Event: The Journey
Copy of Slides: PowerPoint Presentation

July 19, 2016
Refining Our Nutrition Program to Meet the Mineral and Vitamin Needs of Our Sheep Flocks
Dr. Dan Morrical, Department of Animal Science, Iowa State University
Registrants: 359 / Attendees: 142
Recording of Event: Refining Our Nutrition Program
Copy of Slides: PowerPoint Presentation

August 30, 2016
Best Practices to Increase Your Lamb Crop
Dr. Reid Redden, Texas A&M University
Registrants: 414 / Attendees: 170
Recording of Event: Best Practices to Increase Your Lamb Crop
Copy of Slides: PowerPoint Presentation

October 11, 2016
Improving Reproductive Performance of Ewe Lambs Bred at Eight Months of Age
Dr. Paul Kenyon, Massey University in New Zealand
Registrants: 411 / Attendees: 185
Recording of Event: Improving Reproductive Performance
Copy of Slides: PowerPoint Presentation

April 25, 2017
Lamb Meat Quality
Dr. Jay Parsons, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Register Now!

California Wool Growers Association

California, Idaho, Oregon and Utah

Development of a Range Ram Index utilizing ultrasound carcass measurements collected at the 2016 California Ram Sale to measure the expected value return of the heritability of carcass characteristics of a range ram through its progeny. The Range Ram Index will be calculated using the following carcass characteristics: loin eye area, loin depth, fat thickness, and ram weight. An interactive consignor educational program will provide an overview of the development of ultrasound in the livestock industry, the practical application of ultrasound techniques in a range/commercial setting for carcass evaluation, benefits of the quantitative data of ultrasounding in a value based pricing system, and how the data can be utilized in the producers breeding program. In addition, all ultrasound data and educational information will be provided to buyers in a variety of formats including but not limited to: sale catalogs, buyer informational packets, newsletter articles, etc.



Range Ram Index
The Ram Index is calculated using ultrasound technology which has been used extensively in The cattle and swine industries but has not been applied much in the sheep sector. This technology provides an objective measurement of carcass traits in live animals and has proven to be an important means for the improvement of beef and swine carcass characteristics. Carcass traits are highly heritable and in utilizing range rams with highly desirable carcass traits, a producer can implement changes in progeny carcass traits, such a larger loin eye size, in a relatively short period of time. This ability contributes to increased production efficiency as improvements in lamb carcass qualities can be accomplished more quickly than relying on traditional selection methods that focus on phenotypic characteristics.

The Range Ram Index (Ram Index) is calculated using the following variables: loin eye area (LEA) and fat thickness (BF) gathered from ultrasound measurements and body weight (BW). As described in the previous section, there lack thereof any genetic information on the rams consigned to the Sale to serve as a normalized base for the Ram Index. To account for this issue, the variables used to calculate the Ram Index are standardized based on the average carcass traits of the 506 rams sold in the Sale (refer to Table 1 and Table 2).1 This allows each ram’s carcass traits to be measured in relation to a normalized base or average value. Each ram’s Ram Index is then calculated using the genetic variables of the individual ram relative to the average all of the rams.

The Ram Index is presented as a numerical value relative to the average meaning those rams with more desirable carcass characteristics are assigned a positive Ram Index value and those with less desirable a negative Ram Index value. Those rams with average carcass characteristics are assigned a zero Ram Index value. There was much discussion among project collaborators regarding calculating the Ram Index as either a positive/negative value or a more common weighted average 100 index. In reviewing industry literature related to ultrasounding and carcass characteristics, as well as current genetic tools (i.e. EBVs) it was decided that a positive/negative value relative to an average approach would be better understood and consistent with other genetic tools utilized in the livestock industry.

An objective of utilizing genetic information is to improve certain heritable traits, in this case carcass characteristics. Therefore, to account for rams with less desirable carcass characteristics for fat thickness and body weight, boundaries were established on the each of the variables, with deductions applied to the Ram Index for outlier rams (see Table 2). The bounds and deductions can be adjusted to reflect for changes in the industry regarding carcass and product characteristics. The bounds and deductions incorporated into to the Ram Index were based on industry research regarding premiums and discounts on carcasses with desirable and less desirable carcass characteristics and discussion among project collaborators. A boundary and deduction was not placed on loin eye area due to a greater focus on current issues associated with the other two carcass traits (fat thickness and body weight). The Ram Index and statistics are calculated on the total number of rams sold (506 rams). A total of 523 rams were ultrasounded at the Sale, of which 17 were sifted.

Other buyers via the survey and in discussions at the Sale, do not utilize any type of genetic selection in their operations and select rams based on phenotype and prior purchases from consignors. These buyers are reluctant to utilize genetic information until data consistently reflect actual performance in progeny and the benefits or market value exceeds the additional costs of purchasing rams with more desirable genetic traits. In regards to the Ram Index, some buyers noted there was not enough evidence to indicate those rams with a higher Ram Index values would pass those traits onto their progeny as the Ram Index was just a snapshot of carcass characteristics and did not account for age, breed, and management programs. Many buyers repeatedly indicated the cost in paying more for rams with desirable genetic traits is greater than the current benefit (i.e. feeder lamb price) received and is not justifiable at this time. Similar results and comments were submitted by those consignors that returned their surveys. Of the 28 consignors, only seven (or one-third) returned the survey. The survey in hindsight was too long as it addressed not only the understanding and adoption of the Ram Index and genetic selection, but also allowed for comment on factors pertaining to consigning at the Sale. According to the surveys, most raise traditional meat breeds (i.e. blackface) and consigned only such at the Sale. Many consign rams as it provides an outlet to provide high quality rams to California and Western sheep producers. Those that responded and in conversations, indicated they read the outreach materials on the Ram Index and for the most part understood the concept of the Ram Index and the genetic information provided. However, consignors believed that the buyers did not understand the concept of the Ram Index, nor had any interest in applying it in their purchasing decisions. Some consignors recognized the positive correlation between prices received and the Ram Index value, while other consignors did not see any difference in the prices received for those pens with positive and negative Ram Index values. According to the surveys, consignors indicated the buyers were not willing to pay more and did not pay more for rams with more desirable carcass characteristics, others were unsure, while some consignors suggested that buyers might be willing to pay five to ten percent more. However, as stated by one consignor “my highest selling pen was also my highest Ram Index value pen” would suggest that some buyers were willing to pay higher value for rams that have the potential to sire progeny with more desirable carcass characteristics. Many of the consignors do not collect genetic information nor select rams using genetic information. Those that do use genetic information focus on bodyweight and phenotype, with some referencing the genetic markers for Scrapie. Comments mirrored those by buyers in regarding the confidence and credibility in genetic information of either the ultrasound data or EBVs. One consignor commented, “I use big thick rams and all my rams ultrasounded just as good as everybody else’s at the sale.” Similarity, consignors noted the cost of collecting genetic information currently exceeds the benefit (i.e. higher price received) at this time. Many consignors suggested buyers are interested in having loin eye area and bodyweight information on rams more so than EBVs. Consignors indicated they are willing to provide genetic information (some even stated wool data) on future ram consignments if demanded by buyers and the information will help in netting a higher return. Overall, consignors also recognize that market dynamics factor into the prices paid at the Sale, despite the genetic information provided on the rams.

Concluding Comments
The objective of this project was to improve sheep carcass quality and increase the practice of genetic selection in commercial range operations through the development of a Ram Index that utilizes ultrasound technology focusing on carcass quality characteristics. It is rather difficult in a range operation to collect the data required to develop EBVs, which is a challenge in an industry that is focusing on genetic selection and improvement. The Ram Index is designed as an alternative for producers to use when evaluating range rams that do not have established EBVs. Regardless of the buyers or consignors use of genetic selection tools such as the Ram Index, it was apparent during the Sale that consignors and buyers were actively engaged and interested in the carcass performance provided on the rams sold. In reviewing the Sale data, survey responses, and conversations with stakeholders there was a positive correlation between the value paid for rams and the Ram Index, suggesting that some buyers may have been willing to pay more for rams with more desirable carcass traits. It can also be concluded that as a result of this project, all parties became aware of the industry’s efforts in utilizing genetic improvement tools to produce a more consistent and desirable product and improve producer profitability to ensure the economic viability of the sheep industry.

Looking Ahead
This project established a dataset and baseline for which to continue to develop and refine the Ram Index as a reliable tool for producers in selecting range rams without any genetic information. In preparation for next year’s Sale, project collaborators plan to review and assess the data, survey results, related educational materials, and the components of the Ram Index calculation (i.e. breed variable, variable bounds and standardization). CWGA as part of its educational objective, plans to continue to ultrasound rams and provide buyers with genetic information on the rams consigned at future Sales. This will contribute to the development of a more robust dataset for analytical purposes by CWGA staff, project collaborators, and industry stakeholders and further the objectives of this project. In addition to carcass information, a question that respects further discussion is how to utilize ultrasound techniques and genetic data to determine the longevity of an animal. This information would be greatly useful not just to Sale buyers and consignors, but to all those in the sheep industry. The project collaborators plan to discuss how to transform data gathered from ultrasound techniques to determine the longevity of a ram and if this information could be incorporated into the Ram Index or if in another tool such as Ram Longevity Index is warranted and how it would benefit producers in selecting range rams, while contributing to the industry’s goals and objectives.

California Ram Sale -- April 9, 2016

All 500 rams were weighed and scanned for Loin Eye Area and Fat Depth. Data, as well as Range Ram Index, was printed in the sale catalog. Discussion of using this technology was held with consignors at Friday’s sale banquet.

Photos from the California Ram Sale

Dakota Lamb Growers Cooperative


A safe, plentiful source of GM1 ganglioside for therapeutic use for clinical trials in Huntington’s disease (a fatal progressive genetic neurologic disease) is needed. Prior development in the field was based on GM1 production from bovine brain collected at slaughter plants throughout Europe. In the 90's, Phase II clinical trials were in progress for spinal cord injury and Parkinson’s disease when Mad Cow Disease (BSE) was diagnosed in cattle in England. With the discovery of BSE, raw material from non-source verified animals of any species could not be reliably used for ganglioside production for pharmaceutical use. GM1 ganglioside cannot be practically synthesized. Glycoscience Research Inc. (GRI) has developed a unique genetic line of sheep that has been deemed an acceptable raw material source for GM1 ganglioside production for pharmaceutical use in a recent pre-Investigational New Drug review by the FDA. While these sheep represent the only avenue for GM1 ganglioside production, the Pharmaceutical Industry, venture capitalists and many in the National Institutes of Health are skeptical of the Sheep Industry's ability to meet demand for GM1 ganglioside. variety of formats including but not limited to: sale catalogs, buyer informational packets, newsletter articles, etc.

In Process.

Dr. Larry and Sue Holler talked with sheep producers at the Michigan Shepherd's Symposium about how the sheep industry can support a cure for Huntington's Disease. Three separate presentations were recorded and are being made available here.

GM1 Scientific Presentation:

Project Information:

Huntingtons Disease Families

Oss Family:

Katelyn Sandbulte:

Hilton Family:

NSIP Fine-Wool Sheep Breeders


The Fine-Wool Breeders Consortium wants to improve wool quality of sheep through quantitative genetics and NSIP data collection and shared linkages. Through exchanging sheep and ideas amongst each other, we are creating a genetically superior wool sheep that will help improve the U.S. commercial breeder's flocks. We want to continue collaboration amongst the Consortium for forward thinking to see growth in the sheep industry today and for generations that follow.


January 2017 Update
View the presentation provided during the 2017 ASI Convention at: Fine Wool Consortium

August 2016 Update
In August 2016, a group of sheep/wool producers all gathered in Dubois, ID to determine the possible framework for developing a system for adding value to the American wool clip. Determination of the goals for the progress of a premium wool product and a willingness of the group to commit to their individual portion was the main focus of the meeting. The goal from this meeting was to cement a group of goals for the group and provide some framework and structure for the group moving forward.
Grow the U.S. Sheep flock by improving finewool sheep productivity and fleece quality by:
· Increasing utilization of NSIP
· Facilitate distribution of genetics among group for genetic linkages · Support the need for technical quantitative genetic expertise and research
· To facilitate growth of the U.S. commercial sheep flock, develop a means to disseminate genetics for productivity improvement and profitability
· Continued long-term collaboration and information exchange among finewool sheep breeders Precise

1. Develop organizational structure that will progress the group
Action Item:
• Development of a statement of principle and defining group structure
Statement of Principle
We are a group of finewool sheep seed stock producers, enrolled in and actively using NSIP, who aim to improve the profitability of the US sheep industry by using NSIP records and other proven subjective and objective measures to increase weaning weights, weaning percentage, wool weights, wool staple length, and decrease fiber diameter in the US sheep flock. We aim to do this while producing low maintenance sheep that are adaptable to all climates and management systems.
Chair- Plan and lead the annual meeting -Coordinate the sharing of rams -Fill out grant applications as they become available
Treasurer- Collect dues, pay bills and other duties normally associated with the position
Secretary- Maintain a web site and social media -In charge of advertising -Record minutes
Directors- All other voting members of the group, one per NSIP membership.
Ex-officio (non-voting) members – Industry and academic people interested in seeing the group succeed.
Voting Membership requirements 1. Pay dues as determined by the group in a timely manner 2. Be enrolled in and submit data to NSIP annually. 3. Provide access to the members of the group at least one proven stud ram each calendar year at no charge.
New members may be admitted to the group provided they agree to meet all membership requirements and receive at least 50% of a yes vote from the membership on their request.
-Voted on officers for the FWC Ben Lehfeldt –chairman Reid Redden—vice chairman Matt Benz—executive secretary

2. Develop a structure to lead to a genetically linked database as quickly as possible.
Action Item: -Organized a breeding scheme to link rams utilizing John Helle’s flock. The upcoming Let’s Grow grant will include the procedure for the genetic linkage project between the members
-Rams will be sampled from all members to be raised in a common contemporary group of 2017 born lambs. We will collaborate with NSIP and MSU for technical guidance on structure.

3. Develop a system to analyze the data to make an educated suggestion for developing a new index to progress the group.
-Proposed another Let’s Grow grant project to facilitate the development of a wool index. Ben Lehfeldt will coordinate and submit the grant on behalf of the FWC with collaboration from other entities such as MSU, USSES…

Kentucky Sheep and Goat Development Office

Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio

The KIO Tri-state Small Ruminant Summit – Let’s Grow Together initiative is intended to bring together three neighboring states to share common goals and barriers to production, and then to find innovative solutions to increase sustainable industry productivity, profitability and growth. A pre-conference survey of stakeholders from each state will be used to identify the top five goals and/or barriers to increased production that are common to all three states. Production specialists in the field will be recruited to present solutions that enhance the producer’s ability to grow the domestic meat and fiber industry in the tri-state region.


October 1, 2016 -- Burlington, Ky.

Funded by a grant from ASI’s Let’s Grow Committee, the KIO Tri-State Small Ruminant Summit hoped to tap into the growing interest among prospective sheep and goat producers in the Kentucky-Indiana-Ohio region. With nearly 200 producers in attendance, it looks like it was mission accomplished in Burlington, Ky., on Oct. 1.

Numbers released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture earlier this year showed Kentucky with a 10.42 percent increase from the previous year in the total number of sheep – a figure that helped push the overall U.S. sheep population up for the second consecutive year. Kentucky trailed only North Dakota (at 14.06 percent) and joined a handful of eastern states (Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia, Michigan, North Carolina and Illinois) in the top 10. All showed increased numbers of 5 percent or better.

In addition to animal health and productivity seminars devoted to both sheep and goats, the summit offered additional activities that included hide tanning, cooking and soap making. A dozen or more vendors were also on hand to interact with and educate new producers.

“Many of the attendees are very new to the business and I received emails and phone calls from people thanking us for conducting the event,” said Kentucky Sheep and Goat Development Office Executive Director Kelley Yates. “They appreciated the knowledge and expertise of the speakers and were excited to learn more. The networking that events like this offer is invaluable, as well. Experienced producers have the opportunity to share knowledge and give a helping hand. We are blessed in Kentucky to have so many seasoned producers willing to go the extra mile to help beginners. That’s why we had a good turnout, and that is what has kept our numbers growing in the state.”

A delicious lunch of sheep and goat meat also included a Make It With Wool Style Show that allowed new producers to see just how versatile American wool is when it comes to fashion.

The sessions also encouraged several new producers to sign up for Kentucky’s Small Ruminant Profit School, which offers a series of lessons on the basics of properly implementing sound management practices into a new operation. Current SRPS students attended health training with Beth Johnson, DVM and state veterinarian for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, during the morning session. Dave Thomas, Ph.D., from the University of Wisconsin-Madison led a session on genetics as it applies to breeding, breeding selection and crossbreeding. He reminded attendees that 86 percent of genetic improvement comes from the ram – meaning it’s important to choose the best ram available for your needs.

Roger High of the Ohio Sheep Improvement Association closed the summit by encouraging attendees to utilize what they’d learned as they continue to build sheep numbers in the Midwest.

Michigan State University


Accelerated production offers an opportunity to improve production efficiency, decrease the cost of lamb production and provide a consistent supply of high quality lamb throughout the year. This project seeks to raise awareness and educate producers on this production system with the goal of increasing its adoption rate through: 1) producing a peer-reviewed production guide made available for wide distribution on this system, highlighting identified critical management factors and resources required for success, 2) producing a high-quality series of video profiles consisting of 4 successful accelerated farms that vary in feed resource base and geographical location, and 3) produce and deliver an electronically accessible educational series (webinars) on accelerated production. All of these educational materials will be made available nationally in electronic format.

In Process.

Progress report on ASI funded “Let’s Grow” project: “Improving the adoption of accelerated lambing in the USA”

May 5, 2017
Richard Ehrhardt Small Ruminant Extension Specialist, Michigan State University

In collaboration with Premier1, Washington, Iowa, we have captured over 4 hours of video along with hundreds of still photos at 4 locations. This capture of video was completed in early November of 2016. The 4 locations included: Oswalt Farms, Vicksburg Michigan (September 2016); Kyle Farms, Avon, NY (September 2016); Moser Family Farm, Lester, Iowa (November 2016); and Ron Gibson Sheep Farm, Copeland, Kansas (November 2016). Premier1 compiled all of the video and did the initial sound and video editing completed by mid December 2016. MSU created a 13 minute summary video from the 4+ hours of video that introduced accelerated lambing and highlighted its advantages and keys to success. This video was presented as an initial offering to approximately 320 at the Premier1 field day program on Feb 18, 2017. MSU is now working to create videos on specific aspects of accelerated systems and their management from this material. MSU is also created specifc farm profile videos for each individual farm. No videos have been made publically available yet but we are in the process of producing them with that intent and making them available to ASI this summer.

MSU is also working on production of an Accelerated production guide to make available later this summer.

National Lamb Crop Task Force
Project Leader: Reid Redden


The American Lamb Industry Roadmap implementation team identified the goal of doubling domestic consumption of lamb. The National Lamb Crop Task Force was developed to create awareness and educational information to assist producers in production practices that will increase national lamb to meet this potential demand. The task force identified and developed 12 steps to increasing the national lamb crop. This grant was used to write and review 12 facts sheets to serve as core communications, specifically the writing and review of fact sheets. The American Lamb Board funded designing and completion of the fact sheets. They are online at the Lamb Resource Center website in the Best Practices Resource section: Best Practices.


This project addresses the need for productivity improvement. The National Lamb Crop Task Force was appointed by the roadmap’s implementation committee to address the need for more domestically produced lamb to meet the goal of doubling lamb consumption. The task force was given the goal of increasing the national lamb crop from 110% to 150% by 2020. To accomplish this goal, this task force prioritized the need to increase industry awareness of current best management practices that research and industry have proven to be effective. Our initiative will be done in three phases:

Phase 1: Industry awareness
Phase 2: Science-based fact sheets
Phase 3: Industry case studies

As was stated previously, the goal presented to this task force was to increase the national lamb crop to 150% by 2020. This is most certainly an aggressive goal and will take ongoing work on many fronts to bring about such a large change. Realistically, not every sheep flock will adopt and implement the steps. However, individual flocks that strategically use the 12 steps as a guide for increased flock production could see a 40% increase in their lamb crop. But we anticipate that it will take decades for this type of change to spread across an entire industry with such varied production methods and motivations. Regardless of timeline, the fundamentals of this initiative can and will continue indefinitely after they have been introduced into general flock management plans.

Objectives :
The goal of this project is to increase industry awareness and provide methods to optimize reproductive efficiency, and specifically develop fact sheets which will also serve as the cornerstones for other communications outreach to America’s sheep producers. Some of the industry will be early adopters and use the information to refine management and increase reproductive efficiency right away. Others will take more time to process the information and changes will be more spread out. And others will not deviate from current management. That is reality. Yet those who are dedicated and in the sheep industry for the long-term should see the benefit.

The measurable objective is to develop fact sheets for each of the 12 lamb crop best practices, so that producers can gain more information on how to reach their goals. This was accomplished.

Ultimately, the effectiveness of this project can be assessed by evaluating trends in the national lamb crop statistics over time.

Timeline :
Authors identified and fact sheet development initiated
Anticipated Completion: Jan. 15, 2016
Actual Completion: Feb. 1, 2016

Fact sheets returned from authors
Anticipated Completion: April 1, 2016
Actual Completion: Sept. 15, 2016
Notes: Authors began sending us their manuscripts in mid-April. Some authors had significant time conflicts which required adjustments in timelines. We received the last manuscript in September.

Fact sheets reviewed internally and sent to expert reviewers
Anticipated Completion: April 15, 2016
Actual Completion: Oct. 1, 2016
Notes: The panel of 4 reviewers were thorough about content accuracy and applicability for the variety of U.S. sheep enterprises. Some manuscripts were in very good shape in first draft. Others took more revisions, which were achieved by working with authors.

Fact sheets returned from reviewers
Anticipated Completion: April 1, 2016
Actual Completion: Sept. 15, 2016
Notes: See aabove

Fact sheet contents finalized and flowing into design template started
Anticipated Completion: Aug. 1, 2016
Actual Completion: Nov. 1, 2016
Notes: This step was funded by the American Lamb Board

Fact sheets completed, collated and posted online
Anticipated Completion: Sept. 15, 2016
Actual Completion: Dec. 1, 2016
Notes: This step was funded by the American Lamb Board

Grant completion date:
Anticipated Completion: Dec. 31, 2016
Actual Completion: Dec. 5, 2016

Project Team :
Dr. Reid Redden (Chair)

  • 25+ years of commercial industry experience
  • 5+ years of experience as a state sheep specialist

Dr. Dan Morrical

  • 40+ years of commercial industry experience
  • 30+ years of experience as a state sheep specialist

Dr. Rodney Kott

  • 40+ years of commercial industry experience
  • 30+ years of experience as a state sheep specialist

Paul Lewis

  • 45+ years of commercial industry experience
  • 14 years of experience keeping genetic records

Kathy Bielek

  • 15+ years of commercial industry experience
  • 10 years of experience as an educator

Assisting from Lamb Board “Best Practices Tool Kit Project”:
Megan Wortman – Executive Director of American Lamb Board
Sharlet Teigen – Senior Partner at Demeter Communications
Robert Ludwig – Principal at The Hale Group

Access the Best Practices on the Lamb Resource Center website at: Best Practices.

South Dakota State University Extension

South Dakota

This proposal is "Phase 2" of the SD Post Weaning Lasmb Performance Program initiated in 2015 to educatesheep producers in range production, systems where lambs are tyhpically marketed as feeder lambs. The primary program goal is to expand producer knowledge beyond the feeder lamb by evaluating their flock genetics bsed on feedlot performance parameters and carcass merit on the rail. This program will establish baseline growth performance and carcass merit characteristics for each flock. Producers will build upon the lamb growth performance, cost of gain and carcass data cerived to improve management practices and incorporate genetic selection tools (NSIP-EBVs) to meet industry roadmap goals for improved flock productivity. In this proposal, 15 farm flocks that currentlyl finish lamb will be added to the program with the focus on carcass characteristics. South Dakota is uniquely positioned to accuragetly represent lambs from both range and farm flock production systems, we expectg to involve the current 12 participating range flocks along with the addition of the 15 farm flocks to represent close to 20,000 head of ewes from these operations of the Northern Plains.


January 2017 Report:
View the presenation provided during the 2017 ASI Convention at: S.D. Post Weaning Lamb Performance Program

Program Objectives:

  1. Demonstrate to producers and industry personnel the lamb finishing management skills and practices common for lambs produced from range sheep production systems.
  2. Measure and collect data on lamb feedlot growth efficiency and carcass merits of finished lambs.
  3. Utilize data collected on economically important growth and carcass traits in future flock genetic selection decisions and for this purpose encourage the adoption of NSIP-EBV technology.
  4. Provide the program participants, representing traditional feeder lamb production systems, exposure to the lamb finishing, harvest and lamb meat merchandising sectors of the industry..
  5. Additional outcomes from this program could include identification of specific factors that influence lamb quality before the final product reaches the consumer.

Program Outcomes:

  1. Adopt management practices that reduce stress and “shrink loss”during weaning, transport and finishing periods.
  2. Create a genetic selection plan to improve economically important growth efficiency traits to lower cost of gain during the finishing period.
  3. Utilize carcass data information within flock to understand the “natural endpoint” of finished weight that result in ideally finished lambs with optimum economic return.
  4. Understand the importance of superior lamb carcass merit characteristics to improve the demand for lamb meat products. Furthermore the use of electronic grading technology of lamb carcasses and subsequent value based marketing pricing related to carcass merit.

Program Information and Timeline 2016 & 2017

  • Aug– Sept. - Identify 15 producers to provide 20 representative lambs from their flock weighing ~ 90-100 lbs. -- We want to coordinate1 lamb feeding groups of 240-300 head -- 12 to 15 producers x 20 lambs= 240 – 300 lambs
  • Week of Sept. 26-29th - Deliver lambs to cooperating lamb feedlot – Newell Sheepyards – Newell, SD
  • Sept 15th & 16th - Utilizing data to select breeding stock – Newell Ram Show and Sale - Rusty Burgett – NSIP coordinator
  • Oct. - Lamb feedlot performance reports
  • Nov. - Lamb feedlot performance reports
  • Dec. - Lamb feedlot performance reports
  • Nov -Dec. - Tour day of Program Lambs – Newell Sheepyards
  • Dec- Jan. - Ship finished lambs/slaughter & collect carcass data
  • Dec or Jan. - Tour JBS Lamb Slaughter Plant & surrounding feedlots
  • Jan. - Interpret lamb feedlot performance and carcass data.
  • Jan-Mar. - Participate in Lamb Fabrication Activity
  • Jan – Mar. - Host educational programs in local communities or regions of SD
  • Jan – Mar. - Plan for phase 3 (if funded) of SDPWLP program

**** VERY IMPORTANT**** for participating producers to attend in an effort to UTILIZE data in selecting sires and replacement ewes. (THIS MUST BE DONE PRIOR TO THE UPCOMING BREEDING SEASON.)

The result of which can be tested in another Post Weaning Lamb Performance Program to see if genetic selection and changes in management improve lamb feedlot performance and carcass merit.)

  1. Attend, if at all possible (SDPWLP Program sponsored) tours to feedlot and to JBS lamb slaughter plant in Greeley, CO.
  2. Utilize lamb feedlot performance and carcass merit data to identify areas to improve flock genetics and/or management practices.
  3. Coordinate with SDSU Extension staff in the organization and promotion of Lamb Performance educational programming in your community or regional area of South Dakota. (SDPWLP program will cover expenses)
  4. Participate in a SDPWLP program sponsored “hands on” lamb fabrication of finished lambs resembling those with the activity to contrast and compare yield and value differences.
  5. Consider participating in future SDPWLP programs ( if funded ) to measure improvements in lamb feedlot performance and carcass merit from genetic selection and management practices.

Pennsylvania Sheep and Wool Growers Association


This funding would be used to enhance the current Penn State Extension Sheep Home Study Course. Enhancements would include varying levels of participation in the course as well as additional educational pieces such as learn-now videos and interactive visual aids. Funding would be used to pay a technical communications specialist to work on this project as a collaboration with Penn State University.

In Process.


Superior Packing - Dixon, Calif.

Oregon, California, Washington and Wyoming

This multi-state project will: 1. Build on the successes of our 2015 Let’s Grow Symposiums held in Eastern Washington and Eastern Oregon with a third program in Western Oregon to serve the needs of the sheep-rich Willamette Valley as well as Western Washington, and 2. Take the model of WSU’s proven Lamb 300 program to California and the Rocky Mountain Region through collaborations with Superior Farms and the University of Wyoming. The educational efforts described in this proposal are the beginning of a major effort to increase the knowledge and skills of sheep producers throughout the country, regardless of flock size or marketing plan. The Lamb 300 Workshop, the Sheep Symposiums and the Genetic Selection roundtable and outreach are designed to place ideas, concepts and skills in the hands of participants that will enable them to be more competitive and ultimately increase the pounds of quality lamb and wool produced and marketed.


March 2017 - Final Report -- Click Here.

The Lamb 300 course was held June 9-11, 2016, in Dixon, California. A full class of 40 students participated. A second Lamb 300 class is being planned for early October. The Let’s Grow seminar scheduled for early May in western Oregon was canceled due to lack of enrollment.

The following photos were captured during the three-day course.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Texas and North Dakota

Producer workshops and benchmark data will provide a platform for producers to assess opportunities to increase production efficiency. The workshops and state-wide meeting will also allow producers to network among each other and sharing successful production practices. Establishing and fostering these relationships will naturally improve industry collaboration and industry communication.

In Process.

Sheep producers serious about turning a profit should plan to participate in any of four upcoming free Production and Financial Benchmarking Workshops. Four workshops, all with similar curriculums, run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., with lunch included. They are provided through the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service offices in Gillespie, Edwards, Hood and Reagan counties and the Let’s Grow Campaign of the American Sheep Industry Association.

“These workshops are dedicated to making sheep and wool producers better able to calculate and interpret key financial and production measures,” said Bill Thompson, AgriLife Extension economist in San Angelo. He and Dr. Reid Redden, AgriLife Extension state sheep and goat specialist at San Angelo, will conduct the workshops.

The workshops will be:

  • May 18, Fredericksburg, AgriLife Extension office in Gillespie County, 95 Frederick Road.
  • June 1, Rocksprings, Texas A&M AgriLife Research Station at Sonora, State Highway 55 between Sonora and Rock Springs.
  • June 16, Granbury, AgriLife Extension office in Hood County, Annex 1, Room 22, 1410 W. Pearl St.
  • July 11, Big Lake, AgriLife Extension office in Reagan County, 1430 N. Ohio St.

Shepherds for Profit Flyer: Flier

The Board of Trustees of the University of Arkansas


In order to increase the knowledge and skill level of small ruminant producers in Arkansas, educational efforts must be made. There are several producer groups in Arkansas who host field days and/or workshops here and there, but there has not been efforts on extension's part to host conferences, mainly because there has not been a small ruminant specialist in the state office in many years. It is important for producers to be provided with unbiased, factual information derived from reputable sources. The Let's Grow Arkansas Small Ruminant Regional Conference Series will consist of five conferences held throughout Arkansas. These conferences will provide a place for participants to receive ideas, concepts and skills pertaining to small ruminants. This will enable Arkansas producers to become more competitive in the sheep industry, and, in the end, able to increase on-farm profitability. Parasites are a major problem in the sheep industry. One thing all producers will gain from attending this conference is FAMACHA certification. It's imperative to educate Arkansas producers about industry trends and timely topics. Five conferences held throughout Arkansas (Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, Southeast, Central) will provide educational training to small ruminant producers at advantageous locations that are more easily accessible than if there was one large conference. It is the goal of these conferences to reach as many producers as possible and to create awareness about Arkansas Extension, producer groups and other industry stakeholders located in Arkansas. Furthermore, it provides a place for producers to meet with other producers and create networks.


Click here.

Board of Regents, Univ. of Nebraska, Univ. of Nebraska‐Lincoln


The efficiency of lamb and wool production has increased substantially by applying quantitative genetic principles in sheep breeding programs. Accelerating those gains depends on melding state‐of‐the‐art technologies in animal genomics with quantitative genetics approaches to more accurately identify high merit animals. This proposal focuses on three key steps for the U.S. sheep industry to combine molecular and quantitative tools in genetic improvement programs: (i) provide producer education clarifying the opportunities and limits of genomics, and the practices needed in order to collect molecular information to obtain more accurate estimates of genetic merit (genome‐enhanced estimated breeding values); (ii) devise efficient strategies to collect genomic data; and, (iii) establish a reservoir of genomic samples (DNA) on well‐chosen performance‐recorded animals through collaboration with the National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP); such is necessary to develop procedures for their incorporation in genetic improvement programs. These efforts will lead to productivity improvement, a goal of the Sheep Industry’s Roadmap, contributing to the long‐term profitability of the American sheep industry.



Jugular Bleeding Technique for Sheep

Dr. Kelly Heath, Attending Veterinarian at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, demonstrates a jugular bleeding technique that will be used as part of a study funded by the American Sheep Industry Association's Let's Grow Program. The goal of the project is to collect blood samples for genomic testing to establish background information in sheep.

January 2017 Report:

A. Comparison of timeline, tasks and objecitves outlined in the proporal as compared to actual performance

Objective One . The first project objective is to develop and deliver an educational program focused on state-of-the-art technologies in animal genomics, and their potential impacts on traditional genetic evaluation programs in the U.S. sheep industry. Progress on this objective has occurred in three ways:

  • Dr. Ron Lewis (University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL)), the project leader, presented a webinar entitled “A Journey: The Opportunities and Challenges of Meddling Genomics into the U.S. Sheep Breeding Programs” as part of the Sheep Producer Webinar Education Program hosted by Dr. Jay Parsons (UNL). It was broadcasted on May 24 and was attended by 83 people representing 34 states and 3 Canadian provinces. The webinar is posted for streaming on the Educational Webinars page on the American Sheep Industry (ASI) Association website.
  • As part of three regional meetings hosted by the National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP), Dr. Lewis presented seminars describing the future of genomic technology in the U.S. sheep industry. Those meetings were: (i) the National Polypay Show and Sale, Springfield, IL, on June 18 (approximately 20 people attended); (ii) the 10th Annual Center of the Nation NSIP Sale, Spencer, IA, on July 22 (approximately 40 people attended); and, (iii) the 12th Annual Katahdin Hair Sheep International Expo and Sale, Cookeville, TN, on August 4 (approximately 80 people attended). In addition to the seminar, he demonstrated the process of jugular blood sampling in sheep and the preparation of blood collection cards.
  • A video was filmed demonstrating the process of jugular blood sampling in sheep and the preparation of blood cards. The demonstration was filmed on May 26 at the Dry Sandy Sheep Company, Alexandria, NE, which is owned and operated by Matt and Amy Beals. The video was narrated by Dr. Kelly Heath, attending veterinarian at UNL. It has been posted on the ASI website for online streaming. Written guidelines targeted at producers participating in the project were also prepared to complement the video (Appendix I).

Objective Two . The second project objective is to devise efficient strategies to collect genomic data. An evaluation of the strength of genetic relatedness (connectedness) was completed on Suffolk flocks actively recording in NSIP. Among 18 flocks submitting performance data since 2014, two clusters of inter-related flocks were evident consisting of five and four flocks, respectively. The remaining nine flocks were mostly genetically unrelated (disconnected) to the others. In order to reflect the genetic diversity across the Suffolk breed, it will be key to collect genomic samples from genetically less related flocks as well as strategically from flocks within the two clusters. At the time the analyses were conducted (mid-June), six Suffolk flocks had submitted performance data in 2016. These analyses will be repeated once full data are available on the 2016 lamb crop in both the Suffolk and Rambouillet breeds.

Objective Three . The third project objective is to establish a reservoir of genomic (DNA) samples on sheep in NSIP recorded Suffolk and Rambouillet flocks. Supplies for collecting genomic samples (e.g., syringes and needles; blood cards) have been purchased, and distributed to several particpating Suffolk breeders. In order to achieve the aims of Objective 2, all available 2016-born ewe lambs and their sires, and a subset of 2016-born ram lambs, were targetted for sampling in these flocks. That strategy ensures that the breadth of genetic diversity within a breed is captured. To date, blood cards have already been collected on 145 lambs and sires (rams) from two Suffolk flocks. Additionally, 14 sires have been sampled from three other Suffolk flocks, with additional DNA samples from those flocks forthcoming.

B. If the report varies from the the stated objectives or they were not met, the reasons why the objectives were not met.

The stated objectives planned for the first six months of the project have been fully met.

C. Problems, delays, or adverse conditions which will materially affect attainment of planned project objectives.

No problems or adverse conditions are envisioned for attaing the planned project objectives. Objective 3 entails collecting 1000 genomic samples on NSIP recorded animals in each of the Suffolk and Rambouillet breeds. With the extent of performance recording underway in these breeds, and in order to be strategic in choosing the most informative animals to sample, a portion of those genomic samples may need to be collected from animals born in the 2017 lamb crop.

D. Objectives established for the next reporting period.

Objective One . With the activites completed during the first six months of the project, a majority of the educational program planned has been delivered. With the assitance of Rusty Burgett (Program Director, NSIP), as part of a NSIP Regional Forum on Aug. 25, and the Fine Wool Consortium meeting on Aug. 26, both being held in Dubois, ID, further educational events are scheduled. One aim of those events is recruitment of Rambouillet breeders recording in NSIP to provide genomic samples on animals within their flocks.

Objective Two . The second objective to devise efficient strategies to collect genomic data will be built on pedigree and performance data available through NSIP on member Suffolk and Rambouillet flocks. Given the stage of the production season, thus far partial data for 2016 have been submitted to NSIP by most producers. It is anticipated that the full data will be available later in the calendar year (before November), allowing completion of this objective.

Objective Three . As an outcome of the educational events, initial contacts have been made with Suffolk and Rambouillet producers willing to collect genomic samples on specified animals within their flocks. Based on follow-up conversations, arrangements will be made for supplying these 3 producers with the necessary materials and guidelines for collecting the remaining genomic samples.

E. Status of compliance with any special conditions on the use of the awarded funds.

The conditions for spend of the awarded funds have been fully complied with.

United Suffolk Sheep Association


This project will link the association functions of breed promotion, youth development, and education with the NSIP functions of creating and meeting commercial demand for documented performance, and utilizing the technology of genetic analysis. The USSA will update its registration process to record performance measures and submit that data set (in large batches) directly to NSIP, creating a user-friendly system to fully integrate registration and performance. In the interim, USSA will subsidize the cost of data input for individual breeders, to immediately increase participation in NSIP. This project will dramatically increase the number of Suffolk breeders participating in NSIP and the number Suffolk sheep in the database, thereby increasing the accuracy and validity of the genetic analysis. With heavy overfinished lambs hindering the efficiency of the U.S. sheep industry, Suffolk terminal sires (with reliable estimates for efficient lean gain) will be a great tool in managing this problem. As the largest single contributor of terminal sire genetics to the US sheep industry, the USSA is dedicated to assuming a leadership role, and within a cooperative effort with NSIP, addressing the opportunities presented in the American Sheep Industry's Roadmap, and plans to contribute matching funds to achieve the goals of this project proposal.

In Process.


In the Spring of 2017, the USSA mailed a survey to over 900 Suffolk breeders. The survey included questions regarding flock status, recordkeeping, NSIP knowledge and NSIP participation. Surveys are currently being summarized; approximately 200 were returned. Additionally the USSA uses funds to cover the cost involved with entering USSA member's data into NSIP. This is ongoing; over 100 head have been submitted to-date. Members continue to show interest in this opportunity. Since the USSA was awarded grant funding in 2015, NSIP Suffolk flock enrollment has doubled.

Utah Wool Growers Association

Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Nevada

This proposal encompasses two additional follow-up meetings/seminars from our previous Leading Edge Sheep Production seminar held this past August. The goal now is to organize the participants into a producer consortium that can synergize in production and marketing. The group met in Park City at the Western States Wool Grower Convention where Rick Stott from Superior Farms addressed the group and they expressed interest in moving forward – thus this application to assist in moving that process forward. Additional discussions will continue on production issues identified in the Industry Roadmap. Anticipated and/or desired presenters will include: Rick Stott, Lesa Eidman, Dennis Stiffler, Bill Shultz, Alan Culham, Steven Pollmann [Swine Industry Consultant], Noelle Cockett and Mike Caskey. The seminar will be slated for 2 days again. A ram production test is also included in the scope of this grant which is being conducted at Matt Mickel’s ranch in Spring City, Utah. Matt has purchased a group of Bunker Hill rams that have significantly higher projected weaning weight EBV’s than average. Matt also has a group of average rams that do not have EBV’s. He will make up a commercial herd of 1200 ewes and gate cut those ewes into 2 groups for breeding which will be run on the same type of feed during the breeding season. Upon completion of the breeding season the ewes will be returned to a single band and run together through lambing at which time the lambs will be identified [tagged] according to the group from which they came. The ewes and lambs will be run together throughout the summer of 2016 and will be weighed separately with the results being made public. The continued reluctance to seek out EBV rams and availability of NSIP rams with positive EBV’s can hopefully be addressed through this test.



November 2016 -- Better Genetics Equals More Profit
Terri Queck-Matzie submitted this article on behalf of the Leading Edge Group. Click here to read the article.

June 24 -- Leading Edge II Meeting - Salt Lake City, Utah

The Leading Edge Group held another face-to-face meeting in Utah where they continued their discussions about tailoring a terminal sire breeding program for the West. Presentations offered during this gathering are available below.

Vertically Integrated Sheep Production - Alan Cuhlam, Let's Grow Program Coordinator
Tailoring a Terminal Sire Breeding Program for the West - Dr. Ron Lewis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Terminal Sire Breeding Group - Seeing the Vision - Bill Shultz

NSIP vs. non-NSIP Sires:
The comparison of performance differences between NSIP Suffolk sires and non-NSIP Suffolk sires at the Matt Mickel ranch in Spring City, Utah, is under way. Rams were mated to ewes in the late fall of 2015. Performance data will be obtained and analyzed later this year.

March 17 -- Leading Edge II Producer Meeting - Salt Lake City, Utah

The group met and agreed to establish a vertically integrated sheep production system. Group decided to develop a genetic base for terminal sires. A part of the membership will act as seedstock producers. Those flocks will be enrolled in NSIP with selection of Elite NSIP studs obtained to produce terminal sires used by the group’s participating flocks. Future considerations will be the possibility of retained ownership of lambs through the feeding process and the development of a differentiated branded lamb product provided by the membership.

February 11-12 -- Leading Edge Seminar II - Homestead, Utah

Attendees: All Interested Producers
Presenters and Topics:
Production Economics - Alan Culham
Seed Stock Economics - Bill Shultz
Pipestone Model Discussion Do's and Don'ts - Mike Caskey
Mountain States Rosen Model Presentation - Brad Boner and Team
Superior Farms Model Presentation - Rick Stott and Team
The Future? Organize? Future Seminars? Production Education?

Producer Tom Boyer review's previous seminar and marketing economics.

Rick Stott discusses the Superior Farms model.