Highlights from the Leading Edge Project

American Sheep Industry logo

Dr. Ron Lewis
Department of Animal Science
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
NSIP Technical Advisor

Host: Dr. Jay Parsons, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Time: 1 hour 15 minutes


Does better genetics equal more profit?

In 2015 the Leading Edge Sheep Production Group conducted a trial in conjunction with Mickel Brothers Sheep Company in Spring City, Utah. Two groups of commercial white-faced ewes were bred to black-faced terminal sire rams drawn from either the National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP) or industry flocks. The NSIP rams were chosen based on their Estimated Breeding Values (EBV), a measure of their genetic merit, for growth (weight at weaning). The ewes were then managed as a single mob. At weaning, the offspring of the NSIP rams weighed on average 3 lb. more than those from industry rams; that difference coincided with an increased market value of $4.32 per lamb. Clearly, that result was promising and supported the notion that genetic selection works in practice and is profitable.

The Leading Edge Group was keen to do more. Building on this earlier study, a larger effort was undertaken. It had three aims. First, as before, black-faced terminal sire rams from industry and NSIP were compared. This time, however, two categories of NSIP rams were used: rams with high EBV for post-weaning weight, and rams with high EBV for post-weaning muscle depth. Second, the progeny of these three groups of rams were evaluated from birth all the way through harvest. Third, DNA technologies were incorporated into the study; they were used to assign sire parentage.  Once again the Mickel Brothers Sheep Company kindly collaborated: they provided 1,100 commercial white-faced ewes for breeding to the 42 black-faced terminal sire rams tested.

In this Webinar, results of this project will be highlighted. The key question to be addressed is did the progeny of the NSIP rams perform as anticipated based on their sires’ EBV? Was that reflected in their weights at weaning and at harvest?  Did it impact the quality of their carcasses? How did the progeny of the NSIP rams compare with the industry rams?  As hint to the answers, genetic selection does indeed pay.

This webinar is made possible with funding support from the Let’s Grow Committee of the American Sheep Industry Association.

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