Nebraska Researcher Building GEBV Database
Genetic analysis is an increasingly important and common tool in guiding animal breeding. With the use of genomic information, a growing number of desired traits for livestock that boost flock health and producer profitability are being incorporated into breeding programs. Considerable gaps exist in genetic data collection for the sheep industry, however, and a new research project led by a faculty member in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources aims to build a needed inventory of such data.
The project – funded by a $650,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture – will develop a database of traits for robustness and climatic resilience. Researchers will assemble current and additional genetic data, as well as performance records, for several major American sheep breeds: Katahdin, Polypay, Rambouillet and Suffolk.
Ron Lewis – professor of animal breeding and genomics in the Department of Animal Science – is the project director.
The sheep industry contributes nearly $6 billion annually to the United States economy. Lewis noted that nationally, sheep farms outnumber dairy cattle, pig and broiler enterprises. Distinctive breed-types of sheep are dispersed across a wide range of climates and management systems.
“Breeding robust animals that perform well under these conditions is paramount to the industry’s sustainability,” said Lewis, who serves as technical adviser to the National Sheep Improvement Program, providing genetic evaluation service for sheep producers across the United States.
Lewis’ research in animal genetics intertwines theory, simulation and field studies in sheep, beef and poultry. He works closely with other researchers in North America, the United Kingdom and Australia.
This NIFA-funded project involves experienced sheep breeders in various domestic climatic regions, with research done at Nebraska, Purdue University and three of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Research Service centers. Co-investigators include Brad Freking and Tom Murphy of the USDA’s Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Neb.
“By the end of the project, our reference populations in each of the four breeds involved in the study should have more than 3,000 animals with genomic information,” Lewis said. “This will be complemented by performance data on these animals and their relatives.”
That data should improve producers’ understanding of several key traits affecting the robustness and profitability of sheep enterprises, with genomic-enhanced estimated breeding values generated to help them evaluate those traits. Given that GEBV are more accurate, producers can make better selection decisions that increase the profit potential for their operations.
Because the new study will build sizable reference populations, “we should be in good shape to provide reliable GEBV in these breeds,” Lewis said. “We are already doing so in one of them (Katahdins).”
By integrating genetic data sets, the researchers will be able to comprehensively evaluate traits of robustness, including lamb survival, ewe longevity, gastrointestinal parasitism and udder health. To analyze climatic resilience, the project will record changes in body weights and condition scores across seasons, resilience to environmental challenges, and hair shedding in the Katahdin breed.
The project ultimately aims to provide training to the next generation of scientists with interest in sheep breeding and boost the industry’s long-term competitiveness and advancement.
Source: Nebraska Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Wildlife Services Testing Flashtags
The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service/Wildlife Services is partnering with Utah State University and livestock producers in several states to evaluate the effectiveness of a new light deterrent – also known as a flashtag – that is attached to the ear of livestock to protect them from predation.
The nonlethal device only activates when it is dark and the animal is in rapid motion. This large-scale study will provide more information about the device’s effectiveness and limitations for deterring livestock predation by wolves, coyotes and other predators. Results are expected later this year.
In 2021, prototype flashtags were developed and tested on a band of sheep in Idaho. Those trials showed promising results – the ear tags were durable and undisruptive to the sheep, and might have deterred some predation.
Australian Market Off Slightly Due To Large Supply
The Australian Wool market performed admirably this week, recording a minimal overall price reduction in a larger than normal offering. In the largest offering since August of last year, 48,990 bales were available to the trade.
Included in this total was more than 6,000 bales of featured Tasmanian wool, which was sold in Melbourne. There was plenty of stylish wool on offer Australia wide as 48.5 percent of the fleece selection was appraised as AWEX style 4 or better – 13.4 percent higher than in the previous series.
The market opened cautiously in Sydney and Melbourne. Buyers were selective in their purchases, aware of the amount of wool that was still to be offered in the coming days. This cautious approach resulted in price decreases for the day. By the end of the first day, the individual Micron Price Guides for Merino fleece in Sydney and Melbourne had fallen by between 2 and 39 cents. The Western region recorded gains due in part to the fact that on the final afternoon of last week’s sale, prices in the West dropped well below those that were achieved in the Eastern centers earlier in the day. The MPGs in Fremantle rose by between 5 and 11 cents. The Eastern Market Indicator lost 15 cents for the day.
Buyer confidence increased noticeably on the second day of selling, resulting in price increases in all three centers. The MPGs for 21 micron and finer gained between 3 and 45 cents. The EMI clawed back 10 of the cents lost on the previous day. On the final day, only Melbourne was in operation as further overall price increases were recorded. The EMI added another 3 cents, closing the week at 1,420 Australian cents – only 2 cents lower than the close of the previous series.
Next week, the national offering increases slightly as 50,142 bales are currently expected to be offered in Sydney, Melbourne and Fremantle.
ALB Features Food Influencer Billy Parisi
The American Lamb Board’s Lamb Lovers Month consumer promotion continues with new recipes and videos introduced by food influencer and YouTube personality Billy Parisi.
“American lamb consumers have told us they get recipe inspiration from YouTube,” says Peter Camino, ALB chair from Buffalo, Wyo. “A chef like Parisi – with more than 300,000 subscribers to his video channel – provides ALB a level of consumer interaction that is vital to the work of the lamb checkoff.”
A classically trained chef, Parisi has more than 15 years in the restaurant industry. His videos focus on homemade recipes from scratch while showcasing classic fundamental cooking techniques such as marinating, searing and reducing sauce to help elevate everyday cooking.
Parisi’s recipe for Pan Seared Lamb Loin Chops with Tart Cherry Compote reminds consumers about the nutritious and flavorful properties of American lamb. This video and recipe will be used to extend the reach and consumer engagement on ALB’s digital platforms. Another video and recipe from Parisi will be available later this month.
Videos of the Week
Two biosecurity videos – both available in English and Spanish – are now posted on the Secure Sheep and Wool Supply website. These videos were funded by the American Sheep Industry Association and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The videos are:
- Enhancing Biosecurity Against Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) – 6 minutes
- Do Not Bring Disease: Keeping FMD Away from Sheep Flocks – 8:47 minutes
Click Here to access the videos.
Podcast of the Week
The Sheep Stuff Ewe Should Know podcast visits with Dr. Danelle Bickett-Weddle about the Secure Sheep and Wool Supply Plan in its latest episode. Join California sheep producers Dan Macon and Ryan Mahoney and Dr. Rosie Busch of the University of California-Davis to discuss the importance of being prepared for a possible disease outbreak within the American sheep industry.
Click Here to listen to the podcast.
USDA Offers Climate-Smart Commodities Opportunity
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced details of the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities opportunity on Feb. 7. Through this new program, USDA will finance partnerships to support the production and marketing of climate-smart commodities via a set of pilot projects lasting one to five years.
Pilots will provide technical and financial assistance to producers who implement climate-smart practices on a voluntary basis on working lands; pilot innovative and cost-effective methods for quantification, monitoring, reporting and verification of greenhouse gas benefits; and market the resulting climate-smart commodities.
USDA will be inclusive of a wide cross-section of U.S. agriculture and forestry through this effort, including the meaningful inclusion of small and underserved producers and early adopters.
The design of this opportunity was informed by over 400 comments received in the Request for Information published in September 2021. Project funding for Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities will be made available through the Commodity Credit Corporation.
Applicants should refer to the Notice of Funding Opportunity for full details on application requirements, including USDA’s intended overarching and market expansion outcomes for this new program, which will help increase the competitive advantage of U.S. farmers, ranchers and forest landowners, including early adopters, both domestically and internationally.
Click Here to watch a USDA webinar focused on the details of the funding opportunity.
- PRODUCER EDUCATION