Let's Grow Grant to Bring Together NSIP, Breed Associations

Improving productivity in the sheep industry rests on the ability to enhance animals' genetic potential. For nearly two decades, the National Sheep Improvement Program has worked to advance the use of quantitative genetic selection to accomplish that end.

NSIP has the technology and the core database, but is now looking to collaborate with sheep breed associations to help assimilate information and register even more breeding stock in its database of Estimated Breeding Values.

To form the basis of that collaboration a meeting is scheduled for this fall, funded by the latest round of American Sheep Industry Association Let's Grow grants.

"This project will expand the use of quantitative genetic selection in the U.S. sheep industry by combining the relationship and information distribution breed associations have with their members, and the genetic analysis program operated by NSIP," says NSIP Program Director Rusty Burgett. "Forming this relationship will expand the use of EBVs in selection decisions, increasing the productivity and profitability of the U.S. sheep industry, and allow breed associations to offer more service to their members while increasing the number of sheep being registered."

The collaboration has been identified as a priority by the Sheep Industry Road Map, as well as a 2014 needs assessment performed by Demeter Communications as part of NSIP's branding effort.

"It's a model that has been proven successful by other livestock sectors, especially beef and dairy," adds Burgett. "We arranged this meeting to start the process because face-to-face meeting is the best way to form a relationship." Along with NSIP breed association representatives, industry partners from the commercial, feeding and packing sectors will be present to help align common production goals.

Burgett bills this meeting as the first of its kind. NSIP has been in existence since 1986, and thanks to education initiatives backed by Let's Grow funding from ASI, the American Lamb Board and the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center, has increased in popularity in recent years.

Breeds that have used NSIP's technology have seen commercially relevant results. In the past decade:
  • The Polypay breed has increased total weight of lambs weaned per ewe by 10 pounds.
  • The Suffolk breed has increased market weight by 5 pounds, while increasing loin eye area and decreasing fat.
  • The Targhee breed has increased total weight of lamb and wool produced per ewe by 10 pounds, while maintaining wool quality.
  • The Katahdin breed has increased total weight of lambs weaned per ewe by more than 6 pounds, while increasing internal parasite resistance.

"Wider adoption of NSIP technology combined with the impact of breed associations will expedite adoption of EBVs, so these measured improvements can also be seen in commercial lamb production," says Burgett.

Plans for the autumn meeting will be available as the time approaches. So far Rambouillet, Targhee, Columbia, Merino, Polypay, Suffolk, Hampshire, Dorset, Dorper and Katahdin breeders, as well as any other commercially-relevant breed associations and the Dairy Sheep Association of North America have expressed interest in attending.

To learn more, visit: http://www.nsip.org.