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Genes Influence Sheep Diet Preference / December 6, 2000 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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Read: a story on this research appears in Agricultural Research.

Genes Influence Sheep Diet Preference

By Kathryn Barry Stelljes
December 6, 2000

Rambouillet sheep prefer mountain big sagebrush over many types of rangeland plants. Agricultural Research Service scientists found that heredity plays a role in that preference.

Sagebrush is a common browse plant covering at least 100 million acres of western rangeland. Although it is a native plant, it is viewed in some areas as invasive and undesirable.

The genetic findings may eventually give producers another tool for better utilizing rangeland forage. For example, ARS geneticist Gary D. Snowder said producers might be able to select animals to favor an especially nutritious feed.

They also could breed sheep to prefer invasive weeds. Some ranchers already use their sheep to control noxious weeds like leafy spurge. The weeds do not harm the sheep.

A story on this research appears in the December issue of Agricultural Research, the agency's monthly magazine.

ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Scientific contact: Gary D. Snowder, ARS Sheep Experiment Station, Dubois, Idaho, phone (208) 374-5306, fax (208) 374-5582,

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