PROCEEDINGS OF THE 2009 U.S. SHEEP RESEARCH AND OUTREACH PROGRAMS



Table of Contents and Introductory Information


Genetic Markers for Breeding Out-of-Season and Milk Production in Sheep
Authors: Raluca G. Mateescu1 and Michael L. Thonney

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Background

Seasonal lambing and milk production are traits with complex inheritance, influenced by numerous genes and environmental factors. Genetic markers can be used to identify and map quantitative trait loci (QTL), chromosomal regions that contain one or more genes influencing these complex traits. The identification of QTL is likely to lead to more efficient breeding programs, especially for traits that are difficult to improve when using traditional selection.


The National Animal Germplasm Program
Author: H.D. Blackburn, P.H. Purdy, C. Welsh and S. Spiller

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Background

Genetic resources and their variability are the underpinning for improved livestock production. Without this variation it is difficult to meet the needs of various production systems or changing consumer demands. Globally, and in the US, livestock genetic diversity is contracting. Such contractions place food security at risk as well as the livelihoods of sheep and goat producers. As a result when nations have, for example, significant disease outbreaks like Foot and Mouth entire commercially viable breeds are at risk of extinction. This happened in the United Kingdom where the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak cost that economy $6 billion and endangered several commercially viable sheep breeds. The USDA responded to the challenge of protecting genetic diversity by forming and implementing the National Animal Germplasm Program (NAGP). The NAGP offers a safety net to sheep and goat producers so that a ready source of semen and embryos are available, furthermore the collection will afford industry or the research community with an important tool for altering the genetic composition of sheep and goat breeds. For each breed NAGP has a goal of being able to completely reconstitute a breed. The NAGP executes its mission by involving universities, producers, non-governmental organizations and other government agencies through six species groups; the Small Ruminant Committee consists of 15 members from these groups.


Genetic Selection to Improve Fertilty in Spring Matings: Selection Response, Impact on Duration of the Seasonal Anestrus, Potential Genetic Markers, and Fertility of Lactating Ewes in Spring Matings
Authors: David Notter

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Background

Seasonal breeding is a major factor limiting efficiency of lamb production. With a typical gestation length of 145 d, ewes can theoretically lamb every 7 to 8 months, but seasonal breeding relegates most ewes to an annual lambing pattern. Fertility in spring and summer is generally considered lowly heritable and upresponsive to selection, but breed differences in timing and duration of anestrus exit, documenting genetic control of seasonal breeding. In the late 1970’s, ASI identified the reduction in seasonality of breeding as a research priority.


Breeding Objectives for the Western Range Sheep Industry
Author: Rodney Kott, Brent Roeder, Lisa Surber, Randy Borg and David Notter

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Background

Expected progeny differences (EPD’s) tend to be used for animal comparisons with each EPD focused on a single production trait. From their inception, EPD’s have been geared toward outputs, focusing on end products or weights with the presumption that more is better. However, in many commercial applications many traits, and relationships between traits, can greatly influence profit. A selection index is a formal method of combining EPD’s for different traits into one single value on which some selection decisions can be based. A profit or value index combines these production parameters with broad or general economic estimates. Whereas EPD’s have focused on measuring output of individual traits without any consideration to their relationship to other traits, profitability indexes offer a simplified approach to multi-trait selection and, with economic inputs, weight the value of outputs against the expenses incurred to achieve them. They enable breeders and their commercial ram buyers to select sires that maximize profit under commercial production situations.


Genetics Research Program Synopsis
Authors: Dr. Dan Waldron

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Background

Many of the sheep in the Western US are of the Rambouillet breed, which is considered a dual-purpose breed, because both meat and wool have been economically important products. Dorper, a breed developed in South Africa, in a low rainfall area, is a hair/shedding breed that does not require shearing. The Dorper has been selected for carcass traits and adaptability to harsh environmental conditions typical of much of the sheep production areas of the Southwestern US. The Dorper is a potential alternative to the Rambouillet for lamb production. There are no reports available that have compared lamb production of Dorper and Rambouillet ewes in a common environment. Sheep producers need objective information on the relative production of Dorper and Rambouillet ewes in commercial conditions.

From 2003-2005, 100 Dorper ewes were acquired from 20 flocks from 10 different states and 100 Rambouillet ewes were acquired from 14 Texas flocks. Ewes were first mated to lamb at approximately 2 years of age. Performance has been recorded for the first 2 years of production on all ewes and up to 4 years of production on the ewes obtained in 2003. Ewes of both breeds were mated to MARC Composite or Suffolk rams in single-sire breeding pastures. Lambs were weighed at birth (N=768) and at weaning at approximately 90 days of age (N=582). Lambs were fed to a target liveweight of 135 lbs for males and 125 lb for females.


Performance and Gene Expression Differences in Ewes Identified as Tolerant and Intolerant to High Dietary Nitrate
Authors: R.R. Cockrum1, K.J. Austin1, P.A. Ludden1, J.F. Taylor, S.C. Fahrenkrug, J.R. Garbe and K.M. Cammack1

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Background

High dietary nitrate (NO3 -) is associated with production losses in ruminant livestock, and therefore has a considerable economic impact on livestock producers. Severe drought, over-fertilized fields, and non-maintained pastures increase the incidence of high NO3 - intake among sheep and cattle populations. Nitrate is metabolized to nitrite (NO2 -) in the rumen, and ruminants consuming high dietary NO3 - vary in ability to reduce excess NO2 - to ammonia. Accumulation of NO2 - leads to formation of methemoglobin, resulting in toxicity. Symptoms of subacute NO3 - toxicity are non-specific, and include decreased feed intake and efficiency, weight loss, suppressed immune function, and reproductive complications. Individual variation in response to elevated dietary NO3- is partially attributed to differences in rate and duration of exposure, rate of elimination, metabolism, and species. This variation prevents the determination of an accurate threshold for NO3-; toxicity levels in sheep range from 224 - 547 mg NO3 -/kg BW. We hypothesize this variation is also caused in part by differences in gene expression initiated at the onset of NO3- toxicity. Because of the variation and non-specificity of symptoms associated with high dietary NO3 -, alternative methods for identifying individuals with lower tolerance for NO3 - need to be identified.


Genetic Markers for Breeding Out-of-Season and Milk Production in Sheep
Authors: Raluca G. Mateescu1 and Michael L. Thonney

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Background

Seasonal lambing and milk production are traits with complex inheritance, influenced by numerous genes and environmental factors. Genetic markers can be used to identify and map quantitative trait loci (QTL), chromosomal regions that contain one or more genes influencing these complex traits. The identification of QTL is likely to lead to more efficient breeding programs, especially for traits that are difficult to improve when using traditional selection.


Fermentable Fiber for Sheep
Authors: Michael L. Thonney and Douglas E. Hogue

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Background

Growing lambs and lactating ewes often are fed concentrate mixtures that contain high levels of corn, barley, or other ingredients elevated in nonstructural carbohydrates. These can result in high levels of rumen lactic acid production that cause rumen and metabolic problems, so that sheep eat less and feedlot lambs go off feed. Concentrate diets traditionally have been balanced for energy, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Because rumen function must be maintained for optimum production, minimum total fiber (Neutral Detergent Fiber, NDF) levels also often are specified. Even though it is the end products of NDF fermentation that likely maintain rumen function and prevent acidosis, fermentability (digestibility) of NDF (FNDF) is seldom considered in diet formulation. Large amounts of grain by-products – such as soybean hulls, wheat middlings, and distillers dried grains – high in FNDF are available to ensure that adequate FNDF is included in concentrate mixtures for sheep. Use of these by-products to supply FNDF could reduce concentrate costs and improve the rumen environment for healthier sheep.


Nutritional Strategies for Increasing the Efficiency of Sheep Production
Authors: C.S. Schauer and J.S. Luther

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Background

The NDSU Hettinger Research Extension Center (HREC) has been conducting sheep research since 1943, and recently expanded its sheep research program to include a research feedlot. This expansion has allowed for an increased emphasis on evaluating alternative feedstuffs, allowing for the potential of decreased feed costs during the finishing phase of lamb feeding. Additionally, through our fall lambing flock, we have conducted extensive research in the past five years evaluating alternative techniques for delivering supplemental protein during late gestation and nutritional management techniques for increasing fertility in fall lambing ewes. These combined efforts of lamb finishing, supplementation of the pregnant ewe and increasing fertility in fall lambing ewes have resulted in various methods of increasing efficiencies and decreasing costs in sheep production.


Development of and Research With a Small Ruminant Performance Test Including Feed Efficiency
Authors: Brad Smith, Gene Felton, Ronnie Helmondollar, Fane Irvine, Jim Pritchard, David Seymour, John Warren, David Workman and Jerry Yates

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The West Virginia (WV) Small Ruminant Management Project, WV University Extension Service, WV Agriculture and Forestry Experiment Station and the WV Purebred Sheep Breeders Association have developed and conducted a ram lamb and meat goat performance testing program at Reymann Memorial Farms (RMF) in Wardensville, beginning in 2005. Feed is the largest cost item in production; therefore, selecting animals for feed efficiency can decrease cost and increase net return to the livestock producer.


Central Ram Tests, Inclusion of Individual Rams Feed Efficiency
Authors: Robert H. Stobart and Brent Larson

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Background

Central ram tests are currently the only accurate method of establishing true genetic merit of rams, however use of EPD’s is becoming more prevalent with increasing data to improve their accuracy values. The University of Wyoming has conducted a central ram test for 47 years, over that period, as technology has improved, more data relating to an individual ram’s growth rate and carcass characteristics and fleece production has occurred allowing a better estimation of genetic potential. We now can use ultrasound to estimate how large a loin eye muscle is and how much backfat that animal has accumulated. However the one important characteristic we have not been able to identify is feed efficiency. The industry has seen increasingly higher costs to finish lambs, which directly impacts return to the producer. If we had a method of determining individual animal feed efficiency, we could then start selecting for those animals along with the other parameters we are currently utilizing.


Increasing Lamb Crop by Decreasing Embryonic and Fetal Mortality
Authors: Keith Inskeep, Tammy Holler, Matthew Dean, Sara Hare, Brad Smith and Edith Johnson

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Background

The single most important determinant of income is number of lambs marketed, which is limited by number born (pregnancy rate and litter size). Ovulation rate is the initial limiting factor, but, as ovulation rate increases, losses during gestation increase, reducing lambing rates and litter sizes. Examination of factors with which loss of potential offspring was associated led to a research program on late embryonic and fetal mortality.


Evaluation of New Techniques to Enhance the Use of A.I. on Farm
Authors: Phil Purdy, Robert H. Stobart, Brent Larson and Harvey Blackburn

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Background

Artificial insemination (AI) has played a seminal role in facilitating genetic improvement in dairy, beef and swine industries. The technology has not been routinely employed by the sheep industry and as a result genetic improvement has not been fully realized. The University of Wyoming and the USDA-ARS National Animal Germplasm Program (NAGP) have recognized this void and are collaborating to address the problem.


Impacts of Different Ewe Selection Criteria and Early Gestational Undernutrition on Fetal Growth Through Changes in Placentomal Morphology, Vascularity and Efficiency
Author: Stephen P. Ford

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Background

Rangelands of the High Plains and Intermountain West of the United States experience marked fluctuations in quality and quantity of forages. For this reason, gestating ewes on rangeland pastures often experience prolonged bouts of undernutrition. Growth rates and carcass characteristics of young ruminants are known to vary considerably even when the genetics and nutritional management are constant. Considerable evidence suggests indicating that maternal nutritional status during certain critical periods of gestation impact their offspring in postnatal life.


Developing Grazing Prescriptions for Spotted Knapweed
Authors: Rodney Kott, Lisa Surber, Brent Roeder, Tracy Brewer and John Walker

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Background

Spotted knapweed is an aggressive invader, replacing native perennial grasses on many foothill range and pasture lands in the Northern Rocky Mountain region. Although knapweed can be controlled with chemicals, widespread landscape level use of herbicides is generally unfeasible. In recent years, many land managers now recommend an integrated approach to weed management that includes grazing when and where appropriate.

The resurgence of the use of prescribed or targeted grazing with small ruminants in integrated weed management programs has resulted in the need to develop more precise and predictable grazing prescriptions. This has led to the need to more specifically characterize differences in diet preferences throughout the grazing period and between individual sheep under typical grazing conditions. In order to maximize the potential for improving livestock as a rangeland improvement tool, a rapid method of determining botanical composition of the diet is necessary. This diet data can then be utilized to fine tune grazing prescriptions.


Using Ultrasound Estimates of Loin Muscle Measurements to Obtrain Weight-adjusted Ribeye Area in Targhee Rams
Authors: Lisa Surber, Rodney Kott, and David Notter

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Background

In recent years, ultrasound measurement of ribeye area (REA) has allowed objective measurements of important carcass traits to be used in livestock selection programs. The sheep industry is behind the swine and beef industry in use of these carcass measurements in selection programs. US lambs are thought to have larger REA than imported lambs and this trait distinguishes US lambs from imported product. Some observational data suggest that REA in US lambs may have decreased in recent years.

Due to its relative low cost and portability, ultrasound technology has been incorporated in national genetic programs for lamb carcass quality improvement in many parts of the world. Many sheep breed organizations are initiating carcass value traits and expected progeny differences (EPD). However, there are no standardized procedures to accurately ensure repeatability among technicians, and, due to differences in production and management, no established weight and/or age at which to measure REA.


Introduction of Merino Genetics to Improve Western Range Sheep Flock Wool Quality and Wool Clip Profits
Authors: Tumen Wuliji, Hudson Glimp and Tom Filbin

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Background

Rafter 7 Ranch, a University of Nevada-Reno (UNR) cooperative sheep station owned by the Edwin L. Wiegand Trust, manages a flock of 1500 breeding ewes and 35 stud rams. The ranch includes 3,400 acres of private land and grazing permits on 100,000 acres of BLM Lands, and 4,500 acres of USDA forest land. The flat pasture elevation is at 4000 to 5000 ft, and high desert range elevation is up to 10000 ft. The annual precipitation within the area of perimeter is less than 7 inches, mostly as winter snow fall with unpredictable frequent of frosts and wind patterns. Desert shrubs include black greasewood, basin big sagebrush, black sagebrush, bud-sage, white sage, and ephedra. Grass species include Indian ricegrass, bottlebrush squirreltail, and cheatgrass. The established pastures were primarily tall fescue, over-seeded with Ladino clover. Improved irrigated pastures include a mix of tetraploid perennial ryegrass, improved fescue cultivars, a grazing variety of alfalfa and Ladino clover. An additional 120 acres of irrigated land is used for alfalfa hay production and aftermath grazing. Irrigated pastures, 35 pastures at 5 – 15 acres, are set stocked during breeding and lambing, with an intensive rotation.


Grading-Up to Hair Sheep Genetics in a Pasture-Based Production System
Authors: D. K. Aaron, D. G. Ely, E. Fink and B. T. Burden

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Background

Low wool prices, high costs (labor, facilities, feedstuffs) associated with intensive production systems, the continual threat of internal parasites, and reproductive inefficiency are constraints to traditional wool sheep production in the United States. High summertime temperatures and humidities further limit production in the southeastern region of the country. Increasing hair sheep numbers in the U.S. suggest producers are looking at hair sheep germplasm as one way of overcoming some of these constraints. Existing composite breeds, such as the Dorper and Katahdin, are currently being used in commercial crossbreeding programs. Both breeds seem to be adaptable to pasture-based production systems across a wide variety of climates. However, as the percentage of hair sheep breeding increases within flocks, questions arise regarding maternal performance, parasite resistance or tolerance, fleece (coat) characteristics, and lamb growth and carcass merit. Well-designed research programs are needed to evaluate crossbred and purebred animals with regard to economically important production traits.


Ram Breeding Performance
Authors: Brenda M. Alexander, Kristi M. Cammack, John P. Hewlett, Robert H. Stobart and Gary E. Moss

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Background

Ram selection is fundamental to the profitability of a flock and is based on desired physical and performance traits. Selection processes, however, rarely include an evaluation of sexual behavior even though the ability and desire to mate with ewes in estrus is required for the incorporation of superior genetics into a flock. Differences in mating behavior exist among individuals of all species studied (Meisel and Sach, 1994). Price (1987) suggested that as many rams could be culled for poor mating behaviors as are culled for physical limitations or poor semen quality. Stellflug et al. (2006) confirmed that twice as many poor-performing rams were needed to obtain breeding results equal to a single high-sexually performing ram. Low mating behavior results in the need for additional rams, extends the lambing season, and decreases the number of lambs born per ewe lambing (SID, 1996; Carr et al., 2001). Based on serving-capacity tests, Hulet et al. (1964) classified 29.6% of rams at the USDA-ARS Sheep Experiment Station (USSES) as non-performers. Nearly 30 years later, at that same station, Fitzgerald and Perkins (1991) reported that 28.1% of the rams were non-performers. Although sexual interest, or libido, of rams is necessary for the incorporation of superior genetics into a flock, ram mating behavior is rarely evaluated due to constraints of time, labor, and physical facilities necessary for such tests. Because the economic benefit of behavior testing rams is high, alternative means of identifying rams with undesirable mating behavior is warranted.


Repellents to protect sheep from Culicoides sonorensis, a biological vector of bluetongue virus
Authors: Dr. Jack Lloyd, Dr. Robert Stobard and Dr. Will Reeves

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Background

In the summer of 2007, sheep producers in northern Wyoming and southern Montana experienced an increase in cases of a viral disease known as “bluetongue” in their flocks. Bluetongue is a costly disease that is untreatable. Producers whose flocks develop this disease are quarantined and experience moderate losses of mature sheep and lambs. The greatest economic loss to the producer is in the loss of weight and condition of the affected sheep and reductions in flock fertility. Bluetongue is also of international concern; a recent memorandum from Europe indicated that as of October 20, 2008, all transport of ruminant livestock (sheep, cattle, goats), has been banned due to bluetongue disease.

Since bluetongue virus is transmitted by a biting gnat, Dr. Jack Lloyd proposed two approaches to reduce or eliminate feeding by gnats on sheep. The first was the use of an insect repellent spray, specifically directed toward the ventral or underside of the animal. Dr. Lloyd and his students developed a spray race for treating sheep in this manner in the late 1970’s. At that time they were targeting another insect pest, the sheep ked. It seemed that this approach might also work for the biting gnat because behavioral studies from California and Colorado indicated that the species of gnat of concern tended to feed on the underside of the body.

The second approach was the use of an insecticide ear tag, specifically the PYthon® insecticide cattle ear tag, which is approved for use on cattle. The PYthon® ear tag (9.5 g.), manufactured by Y-Tex Corporation in Cody, Wyoming, is simply inserted in one ear of the sheep. In earlier work at the University of Wyoming, Dr. Lloyd and his colleagues found that these ear tags, applied to calves, significantly reduced mosquito attack for several weeks.


Finally! An Effective Replacement for Ectrin® WDL for Sheep Ked Control
Authors: Dr. Jack Lloyd, Dr. Robert Stobard and Dr. Will Reeves

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Background

The sheep ked, Melophagus ovinus, is probably the most serious insect pest affecting sheep in the United States. This blood feeding insect pest causes: reduced weight gains; reduced production of fleece: reduction in quality of fleece; defective pelts: and back loss.

Of particular concern is the damage to pelts of market lambs. Feeding by the sheep ked is responsible for a condition in the pelt known as “cockle.” The cockle defect is a nodule or deposition of dense fibrous material in the hide resulting from an allergic reaction to the salivary secretions of the sheep ked. This blemish cannot be softened; the nodules will not accept a dye leading to an unevenly dyed pelt; and the hide cannot be sueded to mask the defect. The result is an inferior leather product, unacceptable to the garment industry, which results in significant loss of income to the producer.

In 1983, Dr. Jack Lloyd, in cooperation with Fermenta Animal Health, demonstrated that the insecticide, Ectrin® WDL eliminated the sheep ked from flocks in Wyoming. Although treated flocks remained ked free, most sheep producers treated again in the spring following shearing because the treatment was so inexpensive. With the cooperation of the Wyoming Dept. of Agriculture, a Wyoming state label was secured for treatment of sheep with Ectrin® WDL (= water dispersible liquid). The following year neighboring Rocky Mountain States applied for state labels, and a year afterward, Fermenta Animal Health developed a national label.

Unfortunately, Ectrin® WDL is no longer available because the active ingredient, fenvalerate, is no longer licensed in the United States. Other commercial insecticide formulations have not been as efficacious as Ectrin® WDL, and flocks have become heavily infested once more.

In 2006, Dr. John Riner, who was with Fermenta Animal Health when Ectrin® WDL was developed for sheep ked control, expressed his belief that Ectrin® WDL was efficacious because it was a water base formulation, and that the active ingredient fenvalerate, was no more effective against sheep ked than other commercially available pyrethroid insecticides. Dr. Riner, who is now with KMG Company, subsequently provided us with a water base formulation of the pyrethroid insecticide permethrin, Permectrin® WS (= water soluble).

In addition to the Permectrin® WS, the PYthon® ear tag, which was efficacious in earlier studies with biting gnats and mosquitoes, was evaluated. Although Lloyd and co-workers have evaluated numerous cattle insecticide ear tags for sheep ked control, none had provided the desired degree of efficacy.


Identifying Sheep with Genetics for Increased Parasite Resistance
Author: Kathy Bielek

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Background

The NAHMS Sheep Industry Survey Report 2001 identified gastrointestinal nematodes (GIN) as the predominant disease condition present on 74% of U.S. sheep farms. Kaplan 2004 stated: parasite drug resistance has become the single greatest threat to small ruminant production and novel, non-chemical approaches are essential to extend the efficacy of chemical dewormers.Parker 2005: at this time resistance to GIN is a critical adaptability factor for sheep in the warm moist regions of the U.S. Many adult sheep rarely need deworming; death, performance and economic losses are typically greatest in lambs. The sheep industry needs genetic resistance to GIN in the lamb. Selecting sheep with resistance to GIN will produce animals less susceptible to parasitism, reduce dependence on chemical dewormers and diminish parasite larvae populations on pasture.

We began identifying and selecting sheep with increased GIN resistance on our farm in 2004.Our work has been supported by three NCR SARE producer grants: #FNC04-523, #FNC05-583 and #FNC07-689. Early findings included: 1) barber pole worm (Haemonchus contortus) was the predominant GIN observed; 2) fecal egg count (FEC) was effective at identifying lambs with consistently low worm burdens; 3) definite sire differences were observed among progeny groups; 4) selecting replacement animals with lower FEC in 2004 greatly decreased deworming required in 2005.

In SARE #FNC05-583, a group of 10 Katahdin breeders in three states cooperated to explore: 1) how to best identify rams with the ability to transmit parasite resistance to their progeny; 2) how to best identify replacement seedstock from such rams; and 3) whether results observed on our farm could be repeated in other management systems. A total of 456 lambs from 31 rams on 10 farms were involved.

In SARE #FNC07-689, three Katahdin breeders are building on prior work by evaluating FECs during the periparturient rise of ewes that had low FEC as lambs.

William Shulaw, DVM, MS, (State Extension Veterinarian in beef/sheep, Ohio State University) and Charles Parker, PhD, (Professor Emeritus, Department of Animal Science, Ohio State University) have been involved with this project from the beginning. They provide advice and support, help develop protocols and analyze the results. David Notter, PhD (Professor of Animal Science, Virginia Tech), has provided statistical analysis since in 2006.


Sorting Lines of Wool with the OFDA2000
Authors: Brent Roeder, Rodney Kott and Brenda Robinson

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Background

There is growing interest in using new technology to sort fleeces at shearing to target markets and marketing options for fairly specific fiber diameter requirements. In many cases the micron requirements of these markets are so precise that visual classing is not applicable. A particularly attractive area for US finewool producers was to try to sort fleece lines finer than 18.5 μm to take advantage of the high LDP rates. Australian researchers found a strong correlation between the averaged OFDA2000 mean fiber diameter and the certified core test and speculated that building lines to specification is feasible using the OFDA2000. However, previous US research has suggested that the accuracy of predicting the average fiber diameter for OFDA2000 classed lines is lower than required to justify the expense of testing for this specific purpose alone. Objectively classing wool into specific micron lines in America would allow producers to be more competitive on the international market, generate more income from the Wool LDP program, and offer more flexible marketing options. To explore these opportunities, Montana State University conducted research using the OFDA2000 to build lines of wool from 2004 through 2007.


Wool Research to Enhance the Competitiveness and Prosperity of the US Sheep Industry
Project Leader: Christopher J. Lupton

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Background

To compete with ever-improving synthetic fibers, international strategy in the wool industry has been to improve wool quality (i.e., finer wool with less variability and less contamination) and to offer more accurately prepared and measured wool. To ensure US sheep breeders retain the potential to produce the highest quality wool and remain competitive in international markets, it is essential they continue to have access to cutting-edge fiber measurement, management, and genetic selection technology. Significant developments in fiber measurement, wool preparation, and marketing have resulted from research funded by the US Congress and conducted by scientists in Montana, Texas, and Wyoming.


Color of Wool – Can We Select For It?
Authors: Bruce Cameron and Robert Stobart

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Background

The U.S. sheep industry has experienced a decline in numbers for the past 60 years. Income from sheep is based almost entirely on wool and market lambs. Income derived from wool sales is subject to worldwide price structuring. Currently, approximately 70 percent of the U.S. wool clip is exported due to the lack of domestic-processing capability. This requires competition with countries that for decades have used wool color as a selection criterion in the production of wools for export. It has been shown that yellow fleeces suffer a significant price discount in international markets. Wool color is an important characteristic that influences value. As far as color is concerned, superior wool is generally a creamy white color. The discoloration of the wool may for example, limit the dyeing potential of that wool. Clean-color specification is becoming increasingly more important for wool marketing.


Use of NIRS (Near Infra-red Spectroscopy) to Establish Residual Grease and Ash Content of Scoured Wool Samples
Authors: Robert Stobart and Angus McColl

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Background

Wool producers, warehouseman and end-users need timely, accurate information concerning the product they are marketing. Current procedures are accurate, but the time lag involved between shearing and having objective information on the resulting wool clip for marketing purposes is too long in today’s marketing environment. A system which would significantly reduce the time necessary to produce the necessary information is desperately needed. NIRS has shown to be the system which will reduce this time lag. Traditionally, calculation of Wool Base and VM Base has been and still is being ascertained by lengthy, labor intensive and costly methods. Determination of Wool Base and Vegetable Matter Base requires washing, drying, and several chemical tests in order to arrive at the final weight. Wool Base and Vegetable Matter Base are the two determinants of various commercial yield calculations. The introduction of near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) to determine alcohol-extraction content and mineral matter content (ash) has significant implications in the testing field. There are several issues associated with the current wool-testing processes that will have a direct impact on the viability of large scale use of the current test methods. There is a concern among wool testing laboratories about occupational health and safety issues; the current test methods not only impact worker safety and health but also have a detrimental effect on the environment. Wool testing laboratories are also concerned about how to improve service of testing to the industry while attempting to keep costs in line.