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
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
Station, Dubois, Idaho, phone (208) 374-5306, fax (208) 374-5582,