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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Sheep research offers alternatives to improve production


Scientists working at the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center (HREC) have made important contributions to the sheep industry in breeding and genetics, and in the understanding of animal behavior. A long-term experiment involving HREC was initiated in 1960 to evaluate the effects of selection environment on sheep performance under range conditions. Selectrion of the UC Davis flock, representing the favorable conditions typical of purebred flocks where most breeding rams are raised, resulted in more within-flock improvement in weaning weight than selection under range conditions at Hopland. However, when the UC Davis- and Hopland-selected lines were compared under range conditions at HREC, the two were equal in weaning weight, and the Hopland line was superior in reproduction and total productivity. We concluded that selection should take place in the environment of use. In the late 1970s, investigations were initiated to develop cost-efficient techniques for fostering lambs to unrelated ewes; an effective new method was developed using stockinette jackets and neatsfoot oil to transfer odors. Likewise, research on sexual behavior has resulted in several relatively simple behavioral tests that can be used to determine the performance of rams.

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