PREFACE AND INTRODUCTION
The U.S. sheep industry is composed of over 64,000 producers who market approximately $736 million-worth of raw products from approximately 7.9 million animals. The value-added services associated with processing, distributing and marketing meat, milk and wool from sheep amount to a combined contribution of several billion dollars to American agriculture and the overall economy.
The sheep industry recognizes that in order to be a viable part of U.S. agriculture, the industry must not only be profitable and competitive, but also sustainable as a user of and contributor to our natural resource base. The industry feels strongly that our production and processing practices should be environmentally sound and socially acceptable, and should contribute to the goals and overall well being of families and communities.
Decision-makers responsible for administration and allocation of resources to research and education should focus on these priorities to help insure the long-term competitiveness and profitability of the U.S. sheep industry.
The Food Animal Integrated Research for 1995 (FAIR-95) symposium, "Linking Service and Technology to Societal Benefits," elicited general agreement on the following four points which ASI embraces:
- Integrated research approaches to scientific problem solving will be necessary to improve competitiveness and sustainability of food and fiber production from animals.
- Future success of food production from animals will depend on the ability of processors, retailers to meet consumer expectations for nutritious, safe, producers, distributors, and palatable, affordable wholesome food.
- Factors affecting world economic growth will drive the competitiveness and sustainability of U.S. food and fiber products from animals in an increasingly international market.
- A healthy environment and a stable ecosystem, crucial in sustaining economic growth, must be addressed by scientific research imperatives.
Six major goals were identified as key to increasing the competitiveness, sustainability, and long-term profitability of U.S. food and fiber-animal production. These goals are:
- Enhance industry-wide responsiveness to consumer and societal concerns.
- Meet market demands through increased efficiency and competitiveness.
- Develop integrated food-animal management systems.
- Maintain and embrace environmental quality.
- Improve food quality control in terms of safety, desirability, and nutritional composition.
- Enhance animal well being throughout the life cycle of food-producing animals.
The ultimate goal of research is to transfer tested technology in order to improve commerce and enhance the social, environmental, and economic well being of people. Research, development and education; therefore, should occur in a continuum with a well-thought-out mission and strategy.
The sheep industry's research, development and education priorities are organized under the six FAIR-95 goals.
Identify and quantify societal concerns about food products from animals and about production systems to enhance communication between consumers and the food industry.
- Develop a scientific understanding of and quantify the underlying perceptions of consumer issues regarding sheep products.
- Determine and quantify the unique product characteristics of sheep meat, wool, and milk.
Develop methodology for tracking, analyzing and communicating consumer attitudes regarding sheep products and appropriate response mechanisms.
Meet consumer needs in domestic and international markets for competitive and high-quality food and fiber products from animals.
- Analyze and quantify consumer demand, marketing and pricing efficiency and competitiveness by tracking price spreads, markets and related information.
- Investigate the application of new technology for use in developing new products from sheep.
- Investigate genetic and/or management systems for enhancing the quality of sheep products.
- Identify genetic markers and selection systems for changing the biological properties of sheep products to make them more closely match consumer needs.
- Develop new consumer products from sheep.
- Develop improved marketing and pricing systems that result in more effective price discovery.
- Implement marketing and pricing information sharing programs which more closely and more rapidly reflect the dynamics of markets for sheep products.
- Create and implement information systems which more efficiently communicate consumer quality issues to processors and producers.
Develop integrated food-animal management and animal health systems that support efficient, competitive, and sustainable production of safe and wholesome food consistent with animal and environmental well being.
- Investigate and document factors affecting reproductive wastage in sheep.
- Quantify basic nutritional requirements and interactions in sheep including nutrient composition effects on product quality.
- Conduct interdisciplinary research evaluation on breed and strain adaptability and economics of production in varying ecosystems optimizing biological, environmental and economic efficiencies.
- Investigate strategies for controlling disease and parasitism through enhancement of immune system response, as well as improving reproductive and growth efficiency of nutritional resources.
- Analyze the capacity and efficiency of the U.S. sheep industry's production base, taking into account various production and management systems integrating geographic, economic and social constraints of 21st century agriculture.
- Identify, locate and develop markers for genes affecting economically important traits, including reproductive efficiency, disease and parasite resistance and product quality.
- Develop integrated strategies for reducing reproductive wastage in all major U.S. production systems.
- Develop decision-support systems for producers to facilitate timely access and use of research information to improve production efficiency and profitability.
- Distribute research databases and decision-support systems to producers.
- Develop and implement state, regional and national networks to facilitate information sharing among producers, agribusinesses and academia.
Improve the efficiency of resource use to maintain and enhance environmental quality.
- Investigate grazing/growing behavior, including learned response and the genetics of diet (plant species) selection.
- Study and document the short-and long-term effectiveness, efficiencies and impact on plant and animal biodiversity as well as water quality and yield of the use of pasture and rangeland grazing systems.
- Develop expert systems model and collect baseline data needed for analysis of long-term interactions among sheep and other animal species and environmental quality.
- Develop programs and distribute information describing the proper use of sheep for enhancement of environmental quality and biodiversity and improved production efficiency utilizing "prescription" grazing, as well as other sheep forage systems.
Improve industry-wide quality-control systems for food and fiber products from animals.
- Investigate new technology that economically measures the quality and safety of products at critical control points throughout the production, processing and marketing channels of the sheep industry.
- Quantitatively and qualitatively evaluate the cause/effect relationship of traditional and nontraditional production, marketing and distribution practices and systems on product quality and safety.
- Determine the unique inherent biological properties of sheep meat and milk and their relationship to consumer food quality concerns including allergies, gastrointestinal sensitivity and other important consumer issues such as taste, texture, tenderness and nutrient content.
- Develop and verify scientifically sound risk assessment-based methodology for detecting and controlling adulterants that compromise the quality and safety of sheep products.
- Develop quality-control systems and specifications for adapting them to production, processing and marketing systems which enhance the desirability of sheep products.
- Develop and implement industry-wide quality assurance product safety educational programs for producers, processors and marketers of sheep products.
- Develop and distribute science-based consumer information on the quality and safety of sheep products.
Develop and apply scientific measures to assess animal well-being throughout the food and fiber production cycle.
- Determine scientific measures of well-being in sheep.
- Utilizing more accurate measurements of well-being, study the behavior of sheep in different production environments and ways individual and group behavior patterns are determined by and affect sheep's state of well-being in these environments.
- Develop both long- and short-term science based management options that will enhance the well-being of sheep, both individually and in groups.
- Prepare and distribute industry-wide awareness information on the proper care and handling of sheep, as well as management options to enhance well-being.