Sheep Improvement Center Awards $149,000 in Grants

Sheep Improvement Center Awards $149,000 in Grants

The National Sheep Industry Improvement Center kicked off the New Year by awarding six grants totaling $149,000 to deserving organizations affiliated with the American sheep industry.

The NSIIC Board of Directors received 23 requests for nearly $2 million in funding, but chose to stick with projects that affect the sheep industry as a whole – thus providing a national impact through its grant funding.

Established as part of the 2008 Farm Bill, the NSIIC includes a nine-member board comprised of seven voting members and two non-voting members. Voting members include four domestic producers of sheep or goats; two members with expertise in finance and management; and one member with expertise in lamb, wool, goat or goat product marketing. Non-voting members include the Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs and the Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The board reviews each proposal, recommends funding and submits those recommendations to USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service for approval.
The six grants funded are as follows:

• The National Sheep Improvement Program: To fund an education initiative and awareness within the sheep industry. Activities of this project include conducting informational workshops and field days throughout the country, developing educational literature for purebred and commercial producers, and assisting new members in the transition into quantitative genetics.

• The Dairy Sheep Association of North America: To develop key tools for producers and industry stakeholders, as well as to create a functional and stable organizational structure for industry leadership.

• The Montana Wool Growers Association: To provide a two-year educational program for individuals interested in shearing sheep or in wool handling. This would be comparable to a trade degree at a state university.

• Montana State University: To evaluate the effect of zinc oxide injections during critical production periods on ewe and lamb productivity. To achieve the project objectives, the participants will design projects utilizing a local research facility and it’s flock. Recently, the research program has identified consistent serum zinc deficiencies in weaned ram lamb populations across the area. A follow-up study found that supranutritional supplementation of zinc increased weight gain and staple length in developing yearling Targhee rams. Additionally, preliminary analysis has found that western whitefaced ewes with high milk somatic cell counts (an indicator of subclinical mastitis) had 30 percent lower serum zinc concentrations than ewes with consistently low somatic cell counts. Therefore, the proposed research will initially focus on the effect of zinc injection to ewes at breeding, pre-lambing and weaning on ewe and lamb health and productivity.

• Texas A&M AgriLife and Montana State University: To provide educational outreach programs for producers and stakeholders of American wool aimed at improving wool quality and reducing contaminants, and to encourage the use of Code of Practice standards. In addition, the program will: apply light microscopy and Raman spectroscopy to detect and identify contaminants; evaluate the FibreLux Micron Meter for on-farm wool classing; and investigate value-based pricing of wool.

• University of Wyoming: To quantify the economic impact of excessively fat lambs in the United States lamb processing sector. The project is a phase one pilot study to quantify the economic losses due to overfat lamb at two of the major packing plants. To accomplish this objective, they will use survey methods, historical data analysis and data collection on the fabrication floor. Thus, the anticipated outcome of the proposed research is to provide the United States sheep industry a quantitative assessment of what over-fat lamb is costing the meat processing sector.

For more information on the sheep improvement center, contact NSIIC Program Manager Steve Lee at or visit

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