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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Dubois, Idaho » Range Sheep Production Efficiency Research » Research » Research Project #445604

Research Project: In Utero Factors Impacting Fetal Loss in Sheep

Location: Range Sheep Production Efficiency Research

Project Number: 2056-31610-007-012-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Dec 1, 2023
End Date: Dec 31, 2024

1) Determine if ewes that were born with either a male or female co-twin differ in their ability to carry a fetus to term. 2) Determine if ewes that were born with either a male or female co-twin differ reproductive longevity and productivity. 3) Provide a comprehensive science-learning platform for first-generation female undergraduate students from rural and under-represented communities.

The USDA, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Wingate University (WU) are collaborating to develop solutions to reduce fetal loss in sheep. To date, this collaborative work has resulted in describing the impact sex of twin fetuses in utero on lifetime reproductive success of the ewe. Much information has been generated from this collaboration, which has great applicability towards reducing fetal loss in ewes, which is the focus of this new agreement. Approximately 1,000 one- and two-year-old ewes of wool-type breeds will be scanned via ultrasonography at approximately day 35 and 65 of gestation. Ewes that were born with either a male or female co-twin will be identified from lambing records and serve as the focus of the study. The percentage of ewes pregnant and number of fetuses with a viable heartbeat per ewe on day 35 and 65 will be determined from ultrasonography. Lambing records from the following spring will be utilized to determine number of ewes lambing, live lambs born per ewe, and if fetal loss (Partial or Complete) occurred between gestation stages and lambing. First-generation female undergraduate students from Wingate University will be recruited to assist with and learn from accomplishing the objective. 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.