Genomic-Enhanced EBVs Education on Track for 2021

03/29/2021 12:35 PM | Georgia Sheep (Administrator)

NSIP Katahdin Breed Representative

Katahdin breeders have a new tool to accurately identify the genetic potential for several commercially important traits. This tool (i.e., genomics) is not only important for producers who sell seedstock, but also for those buying breeding rams and replacement ewes to advance the performance of their flocks.

Genomics, an advanced DNA technology, combined with current estimated breeding values, improve the accuracy of selection for several traits important to producers, such as: growth to market, resistance to parasites, and especially maternal traits like number born and number weaned.
Katahdins are the first sheep breed in the United States to have the background research available to use genomic technology thanks to the DNA reference population of nearly 5,000 lambs assembled by Dr. Joan Burke and Dr. Ron Lewis with support of 20 cooperating flocks.

Katahdin Hair sheep International was awarded a grant from the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center to facilitate commercialization of Genomic-enhanced EBVs for NSIP producers. The idea is to use the Katahdin effort as a model for other breeds to follow. In years to come, other breeds – once they establish their DNA reference populations – can simply use the Katahdin example to more easily utilize this significant enhancement to genetic evaluation. This commercialization effort – funded by NSIIC – is now underway and begins with a broad educational campaign.

Katahdin breeders are fortunate to have experts to help guide them along the learning curve toward a better understanding of genomics, its impacts on breeding selection and the steps needed to generate GEBVs for their animals. To help producers learn more, the NSIP Committee of KHSI recently developed two documents to explain the basics of genomics and to determine whether this technology is a good fit for their flocks.

The first document provides an overview of genomics, how it differs from past genetic selection and how improvements in accuracy offered by GEBVs will shave years off the time it takes to prove the genetic value of an animal. Secondly, the committee also developed a “framework” to explain the nuts and bolts of on-farm DNA sampling, as well as the potential costs, to producers.

In addition to written guidance, a webinar series is scheduled for late winter 2021. The series of four webinars will be presented by industry experts and Katahdin breeders to further help NSIP producers determine if they want to become involved. Each of the four webinars will have a different focus and will include:

• What are Genomic-enhanced Estimated Breeding Values?

• What Does the Sample/Data Submission Process Look Like?

• How Do Genomic-enhanced Estimated Breeding Values Impact Accuracy and Selection?

• How has Genomics Changed the Beef Industry? What Can Sheep Producers Learn?

Each webinar will be recorded, so if you miss one you can view it at your convenience. To learn more, producers should visit

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