Research at the University of Wyoming (UW) to develop genetic selection tools to improve sheep efficiency could help producer profitability.
A four-year, $499,991 grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture will fund research into the differences in sheep rumen microbial populations.
"Producers need ways to improve profitability; one way to do this is to reduce feed costs," said Kristi Cammack, an assistant professor in the Department of Animal Science in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. "Actual measurement of feed efficiency requires collection of individual feed intake data, which is both expensive and time-consuming."
An alternative measure that can predict an individual's ability to efficiently use feed is needed, she said.
"It is thought that differences in feed efficiency among individual animals may be due to differences in the rumen microbial populations," she said. "We will explore this in our research."
The University of Missouri will oversee genomic analyses, and Montana State University will oversee development of the sheep production community of practice with eXtension.
Extension.org (eXtension) is an educational partnership of 74 U.S. universities and offers research-based information available to everyone.
"Incorporating the eXtension network will enable us to provide current information to various audiences, including sheep producers, industry personnel and consumers," said Cammack.