Sheep and goat producers are working together to improve their genetic potential

Sheep and goat producers’ organizations are launching an initiative to improve the genetics of Canadian herds in collaboration with the University of Guelph.

The project aims to strengthen the GenOvis genetic evaluation program, modernize breed registration and provide better information for meat and dairy production in sheep and goats.

Why does it matter: There is room for growth in the Canadian goat and milk and lamb markets, and genetic improvement will help producers achieve this.

Jacques Chesnais, who will lead the project, said the collaboration between the Canadian Sheep Farmers Association, the Canadian Meat Goat Association, the Ontario Sheep Farmers and the Canada Goat Society hopes to do for industry what genetic research has done for the meat industry. beef.

Chesnais said sheep and goat producers earn about $ 250 million a year from the farm.

With Canadian lamb production meeting only 40% of domestic demand, it is expanding. But genetic research is needed to produce the best animals, he said.

“(Sheep producers) have to compete with imports from New Zealand and Australia,” Chesnais said. “But I think there has been a significant improvement in lamb production in Canada.”

Sheep populations have not grown in the last 20 years since the expansion in the 1990s, while goat populations have doubled in the last 30 years.

Genetic research will focus on several areas.

“One is the increase before weaning and post-weaning, then the number of births and the survival of the lamb and we try to improve the quality of the meat. For example, back fat and back area, ”said Chesnais. “Another thing is goat’s milk and milk production.”

Chesnais said improved genetic information could allow producers to choose the best breed for their local environmental conditions and hybrid vigor.

There is also research to find genetic markers that will identify animals resistant to parasites, he said.

The cost of genetic research for sheep and goats is still relatively high compared to the dairy and beef industry.

“But over time, the price will go down and then people will use more, little by little, they will use more genetics for selection,” Chesnais said. “We don’t think this will happen overnight, but it will eventually happen and we are preparing for it as part of this project.”

In addition to the research, Chesnais said that the collaboration between so many organizations is also positive.

“In the long run, we look at how we can cooperate more,” he said. “We believe that in order to be efficient and cost-effective, we will look at better integration options, we will make sure that there is no duplication with the organizations involved.” Sheep and goat producers are working together to improve their genetic potential

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