Ultrasound Used for Better Breeding in Sheep
October 5, 2009
Ultrasound technology routinely used
to accurately predict characteristics that indicate carcass yield and value in
cattle and swine can also be used in live sheep,
Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
scientists and cooperators have found.
Sheep Experiment Station in Dubois, Idaho, research leader
Lewis and his colleagues have shown that ultrasound could significantly
improve the speed and accuracy of selective breeding methods. Producers
currently rely on visual appraisals to predict carcass traits before choosing
which sheep to breed. Ultrasound provides a faster, more accurate alternative.
To test the reliability of the technology, the team took ultrasound images
of 172 lambs before slaughter. Henry Zerby, an assistant professor at
Ohio State University, coordinated the
collection of carcass trait data for the lambs. Lewis and Dave Notter, a
geneticist at Virginia Tech, collaborated to
analyze the data.
The scientists found that a trained technician can capture an ultrasound
image in about 30 seconds with reasonable accuracy. The images can then be used
to estimate traits that influence the carcass value of market lambs. Such
traits include loin muscle area, loin muscle depth and back-fat thickness.
Although initially more expensive than visual appraisals, the superior
accuracy of ultrasound may translate into better economic returns through
improved evaluation and selection of breeding stock. According to Lewis,
ultrasound is an excellent way for breeding-stock producers to get the data
they need to make selection decisions.
Reliable predictions save breeders valuable time, allowing for educated
decision making about an animals offspring without waiting for the
offspring to mature.
Sheep are an important part of the global agricultural economy, providing a
wide array of raw materials used in products for domestic and international
trade. In the United States, sheep are typically bred for meat and wool and
have been part of the American landscape since colonial times.
Read more about the research in the October 2009 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.