Genetic Improvement

DSANA’s Genetic Improvement Program will produce EBVs for North American Dairy Sheep Producers

At the 2017 Symposium in Quebec, DSANA introduced its new Genetic Improvement Program, in which dairy sheep producers can submit their milking data to a Canadian genetic evaluation company, which will then return to each participating producer the genetic evaluations, as EBVs (Estimated Breeding Values), of each individual dairy sheep in their flock.  If you were not able to attend the Quebec symposium, and would like to see the presented background information on the Genetic Improvement Project, we have 4 PDF files that you can access:  Project Proposal (English)Project Proposal (French), and basic Tier Once participation (English), and basic Tier One participation (French).

As soon as GenOvis begins to receive data in 2018, the first estimated breeding values will be available across Canadian and U.S.A. flocks.   This is very exciting in that as our participation increases, so does the reliability of the genetic data we receive back.  Participating farms will have access to the tools needed to make data-driven decisions on flock replacements.  With sire and dam data being entered, we will be able to link breeding lines also.  It will be especially important to have sire pedigrees from flocks that have sold multiple rams across the U.S.A. and Canada.  Enrollment of the farms that have progeny from the 2017 Lacaune semen importation project will be vital in helping us to identify superior ewes and rams in the U.S. dairy flock.

GenOvis enrollment and data input details are being worked out for U.S.A. participants.  Enrollments for Canadian members are already in place.  GenOvis has a user-friendly system in place for receiving and analyzing sheep dairy data.  There will be online support available to everyone just starting up. 

Genetic Improvement Program Update, as of June 2018:  

The Genetics Improvement project is moving forward, slowly but surely.   There are many components and layers to creating a milk production and breeding stock evaluation program that will generate reliable data and information.   For example, we need uniform ways of identifying animals, animal breeds, protocols for collecting milk samples and gathering milk weights, finding a certified laboratory that will provide uniform analysis, as well as other items. 

Five pilot farms have been identified to provide Tier Two information for the 2018 milking season.  By doing a pilot project, we hope to streamline the paperwork, solidify our relationships with the DHIA laboratory, and create a baseline determining estimated breeding values.   The five pilot farms are Green Dirt Farm (Eliza Spertus, MO), Lark’s Meadow Farm (Kendall Russell, ID), Bellwether Farms (Liam Callahan, CA), Meadowood Farms (Bee Tolman and Quincy Wool, NY); and Tin Willows Farm (Terry Felda, OR).

As the pilot farm enrollment moves forward, we will begin to open enrollments for Tier One participation.   Enrollment in the genetics improvement project will be limited to DSANA active members.  This project is being funded in large part through a National Sheep Industry Improvement Center grant.

The chart below outlines the expectations of each of the tiers.

Item

F1 offspring of semen importation

Tier 1

Tier 2

Tier 3

Farm Enrollment  -- Complete enrollment form with payment to DSANA

X

X

X

X

Ewe flock entry: animal ID (must follow protocol), date of birth, dam, sire, breed type, litter size, birth weight, lactation number, age of first lambing, lambing date(s).

X

X

X

X

Ram entry:  animal ID (must follow protocol), date of birth, dam, sire, breed type, litter size, birth weight, 50 day weight.

X

X

X

X

Lamb entry:  animal ID (must follow protocol), date of birth, sex, litter size, birth weight, 50 day weight, management codes, disposal codes.

X

X

X

X

Individualized milk weights gathered a minimum of 5 times per ewe per lactation.   Collection protocols vary by tier (see milk collection standard operating procedures).   Tier two collection procedures are being piloted summer 2018.  Tier one procedures are in process of being written.

X

X

X

X

Individualized milk samples collected a minimum of 5 times per lactation.  Milk sample composition analysis to be conducted by DHIA certified laboratory.  Analysis to include at a minimum:  True protein, butterfat, total solids, lactose, somatic cell count.

X

X

Individualize milk samples analyzed for MUN-protein and BHB-nutrition-ketosis through a DHIA certified laboratory.

X

Single sire mating and/or DNA blood cards used with multiple-sire breeding to determine parentage.

X

X

DNA blood cards collected on lambs and sires for future genetic analysis.  Cards will be logged and stored in a central repository.

X

Dairy conformation and udder morphology rating.

X

Animal health and disease testing and assurances for OPP, Scrapie, Brucellosis Ovis, Johnes.

X


Genetics Improvement Committee members welcome your comments and suggestions:  Tom Clark (NY) – chair; Axel Meister (ON), Bill Halligan (HE), Liam Callahan (CA), Mariana Marques De Almeida (WI), Bee Tolman (NY), and Tommy Lavoie (QC).  Laurel Kieffer, project manager (kcf.laurel@tcc.coop).

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