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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Dubois, Idaho » Range Sheep Production Efficiency Research » Research » Research Project #443207

Research Project: Developing Practical Genetic Solutions for the Sheep Industry

Location: Range Sheep Production Efficiency Research

Project Number: 2056-31610-007-007-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 5, 2022
End Date: May 30, 2027

1) Perform genome-wide association analyses to identify markers associated with economically and(or) ecologically important sheep production outcomes. 2) Use promising markers to assist in selection of superior sheep for genetic improvement of sheep flocks managed in extensive production systems. 3) Provide graduate training opportunities for persons interested in pursuing advanced degrees in science to be applied towards promoting the sheep industry.

The USDA, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and University of Idaho (UI) are collaborating to advance ovine genomics and animal health and production research. To date, this collaborative work has resulted in identification of genomic regions associated with sheep nasal shedding of Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae. Much genomic information has been generated from this collaboration, which has great applicability towards discovering markers associated with other economically and(or) ecologically positive outcomes of sheep production, which is the focus of this new agreement. Genotype and phenotype information from over 2,400 sheep of Rambouillet (~1,150), Polypay (~700), Targhee (~200), Columbia (~160), and Suffolk and Suffolk crossbreds (~170) breeds will be used. Seventy-five percent of the data has been collected to date with collection of the remaining data to conclude by 2024. Genome-wide association analyses studies (GWAS) will be conducted to identify markers highly associated with traits linked to production efficiency, longevity, product quality, grazing behavior, and (or) herbivory traits (Objective 1). Markers showing a high degree of association will be applied to breeding strategies to test functional outcomes in resulting offspring. Furthermore, efforts will be made to strategically pair use of phenotype-based breeding indexes with genomic information to further enhance the accuracy of breeding programs to generate offspring to meet sheep industry goals (Objective 2). Graduate students from the University of Idaho will be recruited to assist with and learn from accomplishing the objectives. Opportunities will be provided for students to interact with sheep industry stakeholders, present findings at scientist meetings, and collaborate in generating new projects enhancing the work accomplished under this agreement (Objective 3).