Katahdin Hair Shee International
1. Activities Performed:
Since Katahdin Hair Sheep International (KHSI) was awarded funding through this grant, the organization has been busy working with its industry partners in educating the industry on the use of genomically-enhanced breeding values (GEBVís), preparing to launch GEBVís for the Katahdin breed, and collaborating with producers to ensure success.
The project began with preparation for educating producers about GEBVís. This was done through several methods, primarily through educational documentation, Internet promotion, and webinars.
A webpage was built and launched on NSIPís website to serve as a central location for the industry to receive information about GEBVís (Genomic-enhanced EBVs Ė National Sheep Improvement Program (nsip.org)). The first educational document published was "Genomic-Enhanced Estimated Breeding Values (GEBV) for the American Sheep Industry" (Weaver, Weeks, and Bielek, 2021). Next, KHSI collaborated with Dr. Andrew Weaver of North Carolina State University to host a webinar series about GEBVís. Links to those webinars are stored on the GEBV website link above. A logo generic to all breeds was also developed, which has been used to promote GEBVís throughout the industry.
The second phase was to prepare producers about the process of collecting and submitting data. This was done through webinar education as well as the development of several documents:
● ・NSIP Genotyping Strategies: guidelines for on-farm DNA sampling to generate Genomic-enhanced Estimated Breeding Values" (Hodgman and Lewis, 2021).
● ・Framework for Obtaining Genomic-enhanced EBVs" (2021).
● ・NSIP Genomics Check List" (2021).
● ・NSIP Genomics Sheep Submission Form" (2021).
These documents facilitated producers in strategically sampling over 2000 animals during the summer of 2021. This is twice the number of sheep that were expected to be sampled, a further testament to the enthusiasm in the industry for GEBVís.
The next phase of the project was calculating, processing and producing GEBVís, and preparing materials to assist other organizations with developing GEBVís for their breeds. Sample collection and submission for genomic testing for GEBVís began in the spring of 2021. This allowed KHSI an opportunity to work with NSIP to determine the process and equipment necessary to make GEBV sample collection scalable for the whole industry. GEBVís for Katahdins were officially launched on the October 1st data run with NSIP. Additionally, a document was developed by the NSIP Technical Committee, in collaboration with this project, to give a framework within which other breeds can begin to implement GEBVís into their genetic selection tools. "Guidelines for sheep genotyping strategies: building the basis for successful implementation of genomic selection in U.S. sheep populations" (Lewis and Brito, 2021).
The current phase of the project is educating producers on the new GEBVs, the incremental changes to GEBVs, and the remaining work to be done. Two more webinars were held in October, taught by Dr. Ron Lewis, to highlight and explain the biggest changes and next steps in the program.
Everything done to date with this grant will be available for the researchers who received the USDA-NIFA grant for "Improving Robustness and Climatic Resilience in U.S. Sheep Populations Through Genomics." This NIFA grant is a multi-breed grant that will involve the genomic sampling of thousands of animals. As that grant starts to generate GEBVís the researchers can use the documents developed, thanks to this Sheep Center grant to educate breeders in other breeds about GEBVís.
As of the October 1st data run with the National Sheep Improvement program, the U.S. sheep industry received its first GEBVís for the Katahdin breed. The education provided in advance of the launch of GEBVs, in large part thanks to this grant, helped producers sample the appropriate sheep which helped to maximize the impact of the GEBVís, encouraged broad participation from a large number of NSIP-enrolled Katahdin flocks, and helped to provide the industry with information about how this could impact their operations.
The project is estimated to be 70% complete.