National Sheep Improvement Program - Education Initiative
The use of quantitative genetic selection has been outlined as a priority to progress the U.S. sheep industry. Also, the goal has been set to increase the average U.S. lamb crop to 150% by 2020. The National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP) provides the framework for genetic selection technology for the nationís sheep flock. Hiring a full-time program director has increased enrollment by 25% over the past year through increased educational programs, increased technical assistance to members, and genetics consulting service to the commercial sector. With these efforts, NSIP expects to expand the program to better serve the U.S. lamb and wool industries.
The objectives are to match funds in order to engage a full-time program director to promote the wider adoption of quantitative genetics and its use in selection industry-wide. In July 2015, NSIP was awarded a grant titled U.S. Sheep Genetic Improvement Initiative from the ASIís Letís Grow Committee. Funding was dependent upon hiring a full-time program director to carry out the project. Activities of the project include conducting informational workshops and field days throughout the country, developing educational literature for purebred and commercial producers and assisting new members in the transition into NSIP. These activities have contributed to a 25% increase in enrollment into NSIP and further support will allow the program to continue the growth and development of the program. A second grant has been awarded to increase utilization of the technology by the commercial sector. Further, continued growth will allow NSIP to reach its goal of being self-sustaining by 2019.
The National Sheep Improvement Program has been very fortunate to receive support from the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center. This funding has allowed NSIP to be forefront in genetic selection for productivity improvement for the U.S. sheep industry. This project has mainly been focused on industry education featuring the benefits of quantitative genetic selection. The support from NSIIC allowed the NSIP program director to travel to and present at 37 different events in 2017-2018: Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. More than 1,500 producers have been able to learn about the benefits of using EBVs in genetic selection, which has increased enrollment into NSIP as well as increased the demand for breeding stock selected for productivity improvement using the technology.
Prior to the re-launch of NSIP in 2014, the NSIP has 120 members enrolled. Through the support from NSIIC, ASI and ALB, there are currently more than 450 members in NSIP and growing by an average of 6 new members per month. Further, in the inaugural meeting of the Sheep Industry Roundtable held in Denver, CO in August 2018, NSIP was identified as a key solution to improved production efficiency in the sheep industry. Therefore, the membership in NSIP is expected to expand at an increased rate due to this additional call to action. This growth allows NSIP to fulfill its goal of providing the industry with quantitative genetic analysis to improve productivity to the U.S. sheep industry.
The support of NSIP by the NSIIC has been integral for the expansion of the program and service to the industry. The program is extremely grateful for the faith the industry has placed in NSIP to improve production efficiency through genetic selection and for the support in order to do so.