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ARS Home » Plains Area » Clay Center, Nebraska » U.S. Meat Animal Research Center » Livestock Bio-Systems » Research » Research Project #441538

Research Project: Quantifying Genetic and Non-Genetic Factors Associated with Lamb Growth and Carcass Characteristics

Location: Livestock Bio-Systems

Project Number: 3040-31000-101-001-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Feb 16, 2022
End Date: Dec 30, 2024

Objective:
Determine the extent to which genetic and non-genetic factors influence variation in lamb post-weaning growth and carcass characteristics.

Approach:
The National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP) is the U.S. Sheep Industry's sole source of estimated breeding values (EBV) which are quantifiable predictors of an individual's genetic merit for a particular trait. Currently, traits for which NSIP EBV are available are limited to those that can be easily recorded on farm (e.g., body weight, number of lambs born/reared, etc.) or inexpensively recorded by trained technicians (e.g., ultrasound muscle/fat depth, fecal egg count, etc.). However, many other traits are economically important but are too difficult or expensive to measure. Several breeds maintained at the USDA, ARS U.S. Meat Animal Research Center serve as genetic reference flocks whose underlying goal is to evaluate novel traits for inclusion in the NSIP. This project focuses on the evaluation of standard and novel lamb performance traits from weaning to harvest. Cooperators will quantify ultrasound conformation on live lambs at key points throughout growth and development. Additionally, a subset of lambs will be harvested at commercial abattoirs and have novel carcass traits recorded including carcass weight and yield, loin muscle area and fat depth, muscle color, and predictors of eating quality.