Flock Genetic Evaluation Project

The Dairy Sheep Genetic-Evaluation Project

was established for the purposes of:

  • Providing a standardized means for evaluating and selecting replacement animals within flocks; and
  • Providing those who purchase sheep dairy replacement ewes and rams with a reliable source of information on the estimated genetic impact of those replacements within their flocks.

Further information and enrollment support is available by contacting Laurel Kieffer, Project Manager, kieftl@tcc.coop.

The Genetic-Evaluation project is now open to all interested DSANA members in the US.  For information, project registration, enrollment forms, and technical information, go to our Project Enrollment page. (Canadian sheep-dairy producers will continue to have access to genetic evaluation and analysis directly through GenOvis.  More information can be found to the right.)

Genetic-Evaluation Project History

Sheep dairy operations throughout the United States and Canada have been managing milk production records using a wide range of practices for nearly three decades.  There has not been, however, a uniform means for comparing data across flocks, particularly in the United States.  United States sheep dairy producers have not had a reliable means for estimating the breeding values of replacement stock in their own flocks, nor had a reliable means for purchasing replacements or new flock sires.

Canadian sheep dairy producers are several steps ahead in establishing estimated breeding values and standardizing milk production records through the work of the Centre d’Expertise en Production Ovine du Quebec (CEPOQ).  CEPOQ is working to develop the means to calculate estimated breeding values for dairy sheep through a program called GenOvis. 

Starting with the 2017 DSANA symposium, held in Orford, Quebec, DSANA and GenOvis became partners in establishing a North American sheep dairy evaluation program.  In 2018, the United States genetic-evaluation project was piloted by four farms:  Forever Young Dairy, Wisconsin; Green Dirt Farm, Missouri; Meadowood Farm, New York; and Tin Willows Ranch and Dairy, Oregon.

Milk component analysis is currently being done through Rocky Mountain Dairy Herd Improvement Association located in North Logan, Utah.  For the first few years, it is imperative that all components are being tested using the same process for consistency of results.  There is an additional per unit charge for the component testing in addition to the postage costs.  The project is being set up to minimize costs to the farm as much as possible without compromising the results.

Initial results of the pilot project are being used by the pilot farms to determine replacements for their farms.  There are not yet enough animals enrolled to be able to reliably estimate breeding values across flocks.  Results will become more accurate and reliable as more farms enroll and participate.

DSANA has obtained two grants to underwrite the start of the Genetic Improvement Project.  In 2017 the American Sheep Industry Let’s Grow grant provided $10,000 to develop a strategic plan for the project.  In 2018 $20,000 was received from the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center to continue the project.  Additional funds will be required for DSANA to continue to support the project and the work of the project manager.

Canadian sheep-dairy producers:

For information about enrolling directly in GenOvis, please contact Amelie at genovis@cepoq.com.

If you would like to talk to a longtime user of EBVs and other genetic evaluation tools, please contact Chris Buschbeck and/or Axel Meister at wooldrift@bmts.com.  Chris and Axel have generously volunteered to answer questions from Canadian DSANA members as to the process of enrollment and data entry, and the use of EBV results for flock selection, breeding, and culling decisions.

For tremendous information on how to use EBVs to evaluate and select production animals, sires, and replacement animals in your dairy-sheep flock, we recommend reading Dr Ron Lewis' paper from the 2018 DSANA Symposium,  titled "Using the Numbers: how performance recording contributes to genetic gain and economic opportunities in sheep dairying".  Links to Dr Lewis' paper and accompanying slides are below.  (DSANA members can access full Symposium proceedings by going to Technical Info on this website.)

DSANA 2018 Symposium, Dr Ron Lewis paper.docx

DSANA 2018 Symposium, Dr Ron Lewis slides.pptx

Genetics Improvement Committee members welcome your comments and suggestions:  Tom Clark (NY) – chair; Axel Meister (ON), Bee Tolman (NY).  Laurel Kieffer, project manager (kcf.laurel@tcc.coop).


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