Estimated Breeding Values in sheep are nothing new as sheep farmers around the world have been using them for years. The United States is behind in the use of estimated breeding values for the selection of rams and ewes for sheep reproduction. Estimated Breeding Values data is collected on traits such as birth weight, growth rate to weaning and post weaning, wool quality, maternal ability, and parasite resistance. New Zealand is developing which data to collect on sheep to determine hoof rot resistance. Any trait that can be linked to genetic traits can be measured with a breeding value.
The United States data base at National Sheep Improvement Program or NSIP (http://nsip.org) is fairly new program to encourage sheep producers to record data concerning their sheep for estimated breeding values to assist in selection of better breeding stock. Having been involved in the cattle industry which has used estimated breeding values for decades, I was interested in this program for sheep since I raise sheep.
I attended a seminar in person put together and presented by Texas A and M University. Learned where to search for more information. I have spent hours on the website for NSIP and watching their videos. If you are interested in learning, the videos at NSIP are very good at explaining and teaching. BUT…. there is a price tag to put your sheep in their system. First year is $500.00 USD, after that is a fee for each ewe and ram you enter the data into the system to keep up to date. The other major draw back is the cost of collecting the fecal egg count data they require for the data base. The cost is $10.00 USD per sheep each time tested and each lamb or sheep has to be tested more than once a year. There is a sizable expense to be apart of the data base and have the estimated breeding values on your sheep. Currently, NSIP added DNA date to be collected, with the producer paying for all the expenses plus data entry. I do not have the price of this expense.
I know some of the expense, but how having estimated breeding values be beneficial for my production and sale of breeding stock. I looked into this as well. I raise Dorper sheep. As of January 7, 2022 there are seven Dorper sheep farms registered with NSIP, one sheep farm being Texas A&M University. There are hundreds of Dorper Sheep farms registered with the American Dorper Sheep Breeders Society. The number of animals NSIP is collecting data on is too small to be accurate for the Dorper sheep breed.
The other obstacle to my sheep farm using estimated breeding values is education or knowledge of the buyers of my sheep. Very few sheep producers in my area would understand what an estimated breeding value is and how to use the information to improve their sheep flock. I would not gain any monetary value to my sheep by having the estimated breeding value at this time. As a sheep farmer working hard to make a profit raising and selling sheep, I have to make sure the expenses would be paid for by the increase of sale price for my sheep. At this time, that is not going to happen.
Will there be a future for estimated breeding values in sheep, perhaps if people are educated in how to use the information. I have collected the same data the NSIP does to determine which ewe lambs I retain as replacement ewes. I have shown potential buyers my information collected and made sales due to having the information. If I could increase the sale of my sheep to pay the expenses of obtaining an estimated breeding value on my ewes and young rams, I would do the program. I do not see people paying more for a number they do not understand.
I have spoke with other sheep and Boer goat breeders, as NSIP collects data on Boer goats as well, concerning estimated breeding values and their response is similar to my own. First, the potential buyer has to understand and second, the expense is too high.
Working to make money in any business, research must be done to determine if a program or investment is going to pay for itself. I can not just spend money because someone from a University tells me it will… I have to have it proven to me it will make me money.
Does this mean I will never do estimated breeding values on my Dorper sheep? No, when the time arrives where the value of the sheep increases to pay the expense of sending the data to get the estimated breeding value number, I will enter the program. This is a program I will continue to monitor and stay informed about, but will not participate in at this time.