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item Brown, Michael

Submitted to: Journal of Animal Science
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/1/2002
Publication Date: 7/1/2002
Citation: Brown, M.A., Wu, J., Luo, Y., Soderstrom, S. 2002. Sheep genetic resources in northwest China. Journal of Animal Science. v. 80(Suppl. 1). Abstract. p. 174.

Interpretive Summary: Abstract Only.

Technical Abstract: In China's northwestern pastoral areas, there are significant challenges for rural development. Despite the political and strategic importance of the region and progress in agricultural development throughout China, there is a need for further economic growth in this area. This growth is impeded by lack of available production capital for the herders and by grassland degradation. However, animal husbandry will remain the major source of livelihoods and real economic growth in this region in the foreseeable future, since there are major limitations in opportunities for non-farm enterprises. The government is placing a major emphasis on sheep breeding in the pastoral areas since the climate is particularly suited to sheep production. Since the 1950's, considerable effort has gone into developing breeds of fine-wool sheep, based on importation of Merino breeds. However, despite this effort, about 60 percent of the national sheep flock are still local coarse-wool sheep. Much of the fine-wool breed improvement was conducted on State Farms, where most of the better quality fine-wool sheep are now found. Still, average grease fleece production per sheep is about 2 kg, compared with more than 4 kg in the U.S. The clean wool yield is 40-50 percent compared with nearly 63 percent in the U.S. due to wool contamination caused by inherent environmental characteristics of the semi-arid pastoral areas. The fine wool that is produced also suffers from a number of quality problems. Herders are moving from fine-wool production into more profitable meat production. This reflects not only producer response to better markets for meat sheep but also production risks associated with fine-wool sheep. This is creating concern over genetic regression in the remaining fine-wool flocks in the pastoral areas and a need to evaluate breeding programs. Additionally, there is a need for programs to characterize and utilize breeds of mutton sheep in pastoral production systems. The objective of this presentation is to discuss genetic resources available in China for improvement of both fine-wool and mutton production and breeding programs to utilize these resources. Key words: China, sheep, genetic resources.