March 15, 2004
Mar/Apr 2004 -- Government research dollars funneled into sheep studies have inched up in the past year, but the rate of increase is not the same as before, said Larry Miller, national program leader for animal science with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES).
"Dollars for basic biology areas have increased more than those of specific animal species," Miller told producers at ASI's Sacramento convention.
From 1998 to 2002, research funding for sheep and wool rose from $41.72 million to $48.28 million. Miller said most of the increases in funding were for animal health and genetics research, while research for reproduction and nutrition studies has decreased a little.
Meanwhile, a report critical to the sheep industry is being updated by the National Academy of Sciences. The handbook, Nutrient Requirements for Small Ruminants, was last updated in 1985 for sheep and 1981 for goats.
"Since the last updates, there have been significant changes including many new breeds and germplasm, so we need to go back and reevaluate nutrient requirements for these animals," said Miller, adding that a number of environmental concerns and regulations that are impacted by nutrition have also arisen.
The new guide will outline the requirements for energy, protein, minerals and vitamins during growth, gestation, lactation and adulthood maintenance.
The total cost of the project is $250,000, with half of the funding from the National Research Council and the balance from a half dozen other sources, including $50,000 from the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center, $10,000 from the American Sheep Industry Association and funding from several CSREES grants.
Miller said the Minor Use and Minor Species Animal Health Act (MUMS), introduced into Congress some time ago, had languished until late November last year when it was reignited in both the House and the Senate.
"Hopes are high that both will pass the bill in early 2004," said Miller.
He added that MUMS is working to identify the needs and uses for minor animal species. He cited the need to determine what is significant to the industry and to find a pharmaceutical company willing to sponsor the drug and conduct studies on efficacy, target animal safety, human food safety and environmental safety.
Two studies are currently being conducted by the Minor Use Animal Drug program for sheep, one on sheep respiratory infections, which should be completed and submitted to USDA-CSREES in 2004, and the other on progesterone implants for estrus synchronization, for which safety studies have been completed and sent to the Food and Drug Administration.
"It's moving slowly, but there is some hope for final approval," Miller said.
In addition, Miller provided to the Wool Roundtable an overview of the wool research funded through CSREES. The primary objective of the studies is to develop objective measurement of wool and other animal fibers to improve quality in the marketplace.