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USSES Announces Collaborative Effort

The U.S. Sheep Experiment Station in Dubois, Idaho, has announced the formation of a new collaborative effort called The U.S. Sheep Station Rangeland Collaboratory, which aims to develop a new participatory experiment addressing rangeland stewardship for multiple ecosystem services on U.S. Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service lands in Montana and Idaho.

“This new collaborative effort includes ranchers, conservation groups, agency staff, and university extension and researchers,” said USSES Lead Researcher and Supervisory Scientist Dr. Bret Taylor.

Throughout 2024 – the first year of the project – the collaboratory will be focused on developing a baseline assessment of social and ecological conditions. Dr. Hailey Wilmer and her team are currently reaching out to stakeholders to conduct interviews about their views, goals and research needs. In addition, a collaborative adaptive management plan will be developed, inclusive of diverse land management and social goals.

“We welcome participation from all stakeholders with an interest in rangeland management issues as we brainstorm, scope, discuss and create this effort,” said Wilmer, the rangeland program lead scientist at the station.

The collaboratory will host a series of in-person meetings this spring and summer, with its spring meeting on May 23 from 1 to 3:30 p.m. at the University of Montana, Western (Dillon, Mont.).  The second meeting is planned for Aug. 8-9 at the USSES. This event will include a tour and campout at the summer range.

The first meeting to gather public input was held in Dillon on Jan. 18 and had broad attendance from around the region. More than 40 people attended in person and more than 30 individuals joined online. After being introduced to the station’s scientists and collaborators, attendees received a high-level overview of ARS goals for the collaborative process and the rangeland research, and were given the opportunity to discuss their vision for the social and ecological system.

For more information about the project goals and timeline, for a copy of meeting recordings, or to provide feedback and input, contact Bret Taylor or Hailey Wilmer.

In other news, USSES has recently hired Dr. Jonathan Spiess as a research rangeland management specialist. Spiess has expertise in disturbance and grazing ecology. His research interests include fire and grazing interactions, rangeland management for biodiversity, and forage nutritive values and soil nutrients and microbes.

“Hiring Jonathan is an exciting opportunity for our unit to expand our research capacity on rangelands across the intermountain region,” said Taylor.

The USDA-ARS Range Sheep Production Efficiency Research Unit at USSES also recently announced that its five-year project plan recently submitted to the USDA-ARS Grass, Forage and Rangeland Agroecosystems National Program has been approved. The project, entitled Adaptive Capacity and Ecosystem Service Provisioning on Intermountain Range Sheep Systems Under a Changing Climate received a “no revisions” score, and was tied with one other project for the highest score in the agency.

Source: USSES


Sheep GEMS is About Interaction

As a reminder, GEMS stands for Genetics, Environment, Management and Society. In Sheep GEMS, we are interested in the interactions among these elements of a production system. As our starting point, we focused on the first three bits, namely Genetics, Environment and Management. An initial study with Katahdin sheep shows how these elements work together.

We based genetics on body weights, fecal egg counts and FAMACHA scores recorded at around 90 days of age in more than 3,500 Katahdin lambs from 17 flocks participating in the National Sheep Improvement Program. FAMACHA scores provide a subjective assessment of anemia and are scored from 1 to 5 relative to the color of the membrane within the eyelid. A score of 1 is red – a healthy animal – while a score of 5 is pale – an anemic animal. Both fecal egg counts and FAMACHA scores are useful indicators of a lamb’s genetic ability to cope with a gastrointestinal nematode infection, particularly Haemonchus contortus. H. contortus is the most common blood-feeding parasitic nematode found in sheep and goats in the United States.

We based environment on the climate of the geographic location of a flock. Using data from the National Weather Service, we captured yearly averages for rainfall, snowfall and temperature associated with each flock’s location during a 30-year timeframe. We also obtained the site’s elevation.

We based management on results from an online survey of Katahdin producers, including those who provided performance data. The primary aim of the survey was to quantify differences in management practices including grazing systems, GIN impacts, selection strategies to mitigate parasitism, feeding regimes and other husbandry strategies for the flock. Forty NSIP Katahdin producers completed the survey.

We wondered if we might better describe the unique characteristics of a flock by combining their environment and management practices rather than considering them separately. Their combination was more informative. The dominant factors affecting the performance of animals were temperature, rainfall, grain supplementation on pasture, and the age at which animals were turned out to pasture. Nine groupings – or so-called eco-management clusters – captured the main differences among the flocks’ climates and management practices. Unsurprisingly, clusters with hotter temperatures, greater rainfall and pasture-born lambs had higher parasite loads. Those clusters with lambs turned out to pasture at older ages had less parasitism.

We then tested if specific sire families or genetic lines performed differently depending on the eco-management clusters in which their lambs were reared. They did perform differently. The interaction between sire genotype and cluster explained 12 percent of the variation in fecal egg counts and FAMACHA scores, and 19 percent of the variation in body weights. Accounting for those substantial interactions in our breeding programs might well allow for more reliable selection decisions and rates of genetic progress.

Still, we do not want to get ahead of ourselves. Our work so far has involved one breed with a focus on parasitism. Recently, as part of Sheep GEMS, we conducted a much more comprehensive survey involving several breeds engaged in NSIP. Analyses of those results are underway and will be the focus of a future project update.

Acknowledgements: The information summarized is from the research of Brian Arisman during his master’s degree studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We wish to thank NSIP and its member Katahdin sheep producers for their contributions to this research. This work was supported by the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (grant 2016-51300-25723/project accession no. 1010329), and by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant (grant 2022-67015-36073/project accession no. 1027785), from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of USDA.

For further information contact Ron Lewis.


Currency Movement Affects Australian Wool Market

The Australian wool market was unable to maintain the positive tone evident at the end of the previous series, recording losses this week that were again heavily influenced by currency movement.

The national offering fell below 40,000 bales for the second consecutive selling series – 38,476 bales were on offer – of which just more than 90 percent was sold. After the Australian dollar climbed above 66 U.S. cents before the opening lot, losses were expected when the market opened. These expectations were realized from the first lot, and by the end of the first selling day the individual Micron Price Guides for Merino fleece had fallen by between 2 and 46 cents across the three selling centers.

With downward movement in the other sectors, the AWEX Eastern Market Indicator fell by 14 cents. Due to the strengthening of the Australian dollar when viewed in U.S. dollar terms, the market improved. The EMI climbed by 6 U.S. cents.

The second selling day, the market settled somewhat but was again heavily influenced by currency when the Australin dollar eased before the start of the second day. The Merino fleece MPG movements for day two ranged between minus 33 and plus 11 cents. The EMI dropped by a further 4 cents, while in USD terms the EMI lost 5 cents. The EMI closed the week at 1,134 Australian cents – a fall of 18 cents. In USD terms, the EMI rose by the barest of margins, closing 1 cent higher at 746 U.S. cents.

After rising for five consecutive selling days, the EMI has since gone on a five selling day downward run, losing a total of 43 cents across these sales – a drop of 3.7 percent.

Next week’s offering is again expected to be below 40,000 bales. There are currently 39.420 bales on offer in Sydney, Melbourne and Fremantle.

Source: AWEX

Click Here for the ASI Conversion Table – AWEX Prices to USD Per Pound.


ALB Sponsors Brewery Running Series

The American Lamb Board has partnered with a unique Brewery Running Series to expand consumer awareness about lamb’s impressive nutrition profile. These 5K runs/walks start and end at local breweries in several of ALB’s target markets, offering a one-of-a-kind opportunity to combine fitness with delicious American lamb.

The first ALB sponsored brewery run was held at The Board Room in Arlington, Va. After the 5K, participants enjoyed lamb sliders and learned about the versatility and benefits of American lamb, a lean and nutritious protein source. ALB also recruited local influencers and fans of lamb to run in ALB branded Run with Our Flock T-shirts, sweatbands and socks to amplify the visibility for American lamb.

“Races sponsored by the Brewery Running Series end at local breweries where participants join a festive after-party. We’ve been able to add a nutritious bite of American lamb to the festivities,” said ALB Chairman Jeff Ebert. “It’s a great opportunity to reach new consumers as many runners and walkers are trying American lamb for the first time and leave with information about the nutritious benefits of American lamb.”

ALB will sponsor more Brewery Running Series events in several markets in the coming months. On May 18, ALB will serve American lamb and distribute recipes and nutrition information following a 5K at Acreage Brewery in Lafayette, Colo. Then, in June, American lamb will be featured following a half marathon at the Breckenridge Brewery in Littleton, Colo.

Click Here to order run with our flock tee shirts or sweatbands.

Source: ALB


Legislative Update from Washington, D.C.

The American Sheep Industry Association’s lobbying firm – Cornerstone Government Affairs – offered an update this week on legislative issues in our nation’s capital.

Senate Looks to Extend Livestock Depredation Programs

On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate passed S. 3791 – America’s Conservation Enhancement Reauthorization Act. It now heads to the House of Representatives without a House companion and races against its current authorization expiration set for Sept. 30.

The legislation – brought forward by Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Chairman Tom Carper (Del.) – aims to reauthorize a slate of conservation grant programs that fund efforts including assistance for producers that lose livestock to endangered predators. More specifically this bill looks at extending $15 million annually to the Grant Program for Losses of Livestock Due to Depredation by Federally Protected Species (Sec. 101); authorizing $10 million for state fish and game agencies, livestock loss boards or agricultural state departments to compensate farmers and ranchers for livestock losses from predators such as wolves and grizzly bears; and allocating $5 million for “proactive and non-lethal actives” intended to mitigate and reduce predator-caused livestock deaths.

Other provisions in the bill include funding for wetland conservation projects and Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts.

Click Here for the full text of the bill.

Test Negative for HPAI in Ground Beef

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced that tests for highly pathogenic avian influenza in ground beef came back negative. USDA conducted 30 tests on ground beef from retail outlets in the nine states where HPAI has been recently detected in dairy herds.

Testing included ground beef samples from grocery stores, beef muscle samples from culled dairy cows, and testing ground beef cooked at different temperatures to assess virus susceptibility.

FDA Updates Guidance on Genomic Alterations

Recently, the Food and Drug Administration released updated guidance documents on intentional genomic alterations in animals. FDA says the changes support the development of these technologies while improving regulatory flexibility, predictability and efficiency.

As part of the announcement, FDA released the final CVM GFI #187A Heritable Intentional Genomic Alterations in Animals: Risk-Based Approach and the draft CVM GFI #187B Heritable Intentional Genomic Alterations in Animals: The Approval Process.

FDA also announced it had established a memorandum of understanding with USDA to clarify each agency’s role in regulating genomic alterations in animals.


Video of the Week

The Last Sheepherders is a short documentary looking at the Borda family of Nevada. It explores the many layers of an ancient tradition and follows one family as it fights to keep its heritage alive.

Click Here to watch the video.

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