U.S. Sheep Industry Research, Development and Education Priorities

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The sheep industry in the U.S. is a complex industry facing many complex issues and challenges. The sheep industry is a diverse industry producing quality meat, milk, and wool products under a variety of management and environmental conditions. Identifying and understanding the key issues and challenges facing the sheep industry today is important to help establish the industry’s research, development, and education priorities and to help guide resource allocation - both public and private.

The overarching objective of this report is to identify research, development, and education priorities for the U.S. sheep industry that: 1) result in products from sheep that are of the highest possible quality, 2) are safe and wholesome, 3) are produced in a sustainable and environmentally responsible manner, 4) contribute to the nation’s food and fiber security, 5) recognize the ethical responsibility to provide for the humane care and welfare of sheep, and 6) create opportunities for increased profitability, competiveness in the world market, and industry growth.

In a 2015 National Research Council report titled, Critical Role of Animal Science Research in Food Security and Sustainability, the committee stated that sustainably meeting the nutritional needs of a growing population and its demand for animal products will require significant investment in research and development.1 However, public funding for animal agriculture in general, and for sheep research, development, and education in particular, is on the decline. It is within this context of complex issues and challenges, industry diversity, and reduced funding that a comprehensive needs assessment of the U.S. sheep industry was undertaken.