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ARS Home » Plains Area » Fort Collins, Colorado » Center for Agricultural Resources Research » Agricultural Genetic Resources Preservation Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #380530

Research Project: National Animal Germplasm Program

Location: Agricultural Genetic Resources Preservation Research

Title: Evolution of the sheep industry and genetic research in the United States: Opportunities for convergence in the 21st century

item THORNE, J - Texas A&M University
item MURDOCH, B - University Of Idaho
item Freking, Bradley - Brad
item REDDEN, R - Texas A&M University
item Murphy, Thomas - Tom
item TAYLOR, J - US Department Of Agriculture (USDA)
item Blackburn, Harvey

Submitted to: Animal Genetics
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/2/2021
Publication Date: 5/6/2021
Citation: Thorne, J.W., Murdoch, B.M., Freking, B.A., Redden, R.R., Murphy Jr, T.W., Taylor, J.B., Blackburn, H.D. 2021. Evolution of the sheep industry and genetic research in the United States: Opportunities for convergence in the 21st century. Animal Genetics. 52(4):395-408.

Interpretive Summary: Policy, markets, production systems, and environment all impact sheep profitability and how U. S. producers utilize genetic resources. In this review paper the authors discuss how these factors have impact sheep production and how the research community has developed genetic technologies that the industry can use in developing more profitable enterprises. The paper traces the U. S. use of genetic resources, the use of quantitative genetics through current research in the area of genomics. The authors conclude that recent industry changes in combination with genetic technologies will result in the industry being poised to address issues in the 21st century.

Technical Abstract: The continuous development and application of technology for genetic improvement is a key element for advancing sheep production in the United States. The U.S. sheep industry has contracted over time but appears to be at a juncture where a greater reliance on technology can facilitate industry expansion to new markets and address inefficiencies in traditional production practices. Significant transformations include the increased value of lamb in relation to wool, and a downtrend in large scale operations but a simultaneous rise in small flocks. Additionally, popularity of hair breeds not requiring shearing has surged, particularly in semi-arid and subtropical U.S. environments. A variety of domestically developed composite breeds and newly established technological approaches are now widely available for the sheep industry to use as it navigates these ongoing transformations. These genetic resources can also address long targeted areas of improvement such as growth, reproduction, and parasite resistance. Moderate progress in production efficiency has been achieved by producers who have employed estimated breeding values, but a widespread adoption of this technology has been limited. Recently developed genomic marker panels also have shown promise for reducing disease susceptibility, identifying parentage, and providing a foundation for marker assisted selection. As the ovine genome is further explored and genomic assemblies are improved, the sheep research community in the U.S. can capitalize on newfound information to develop and apply genetic technologies to improve production efficiency and profitability of the sheep industry.