Sheep estimated breeding values workshop April 15 in Highmore

Farm Forum

BROOKINGS — In recent years, interest has grown regarding the use of Estimated Breeding Values to predict progeny performance in sheep. To provide sheep producers with information, SDSU Extension is hosting a Development of Estimated Breeding Values workshop April 15 in Highmore.

“The usefulness and impact of Expected Progeny Difference (EPDs) has been clearly demonstrated in other livestock species,” said David Ollila, SDSU Extension Sheep Field Specialist. “Our neighbors in Montana have supported the development of Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) in the Targhee and Rambouillet breeds in the state with very positive performance results for both seedstock and commercial operations.”

The Montana Ram Sale catalog found at explains how the Western Range Index is formulated and lists that information in the catalog. Additionally the website has a number of links supporting the use of genetic traits and ram development.

The April 15 workshop will be held at the Hyde County Extension Office beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Presenters include: Chris Schauer, Director of NDSU Hettinger Research & Extension Center; Reid Redden, NDSU State Sheep Specialist; Lisa Surber, Director of MSU Wool Lab; Jeff Held, SDSU State Sheep Specialist; and Ollila.

Why EBVs

Ollila explained that EBVs offer information that seedstock producers through their data collection and recordkeeping can utilize to evaluate and strengthen the performance of genetic traits that will provide consistency (accuracy values) in passing the desired performance to offspring.

“This provides direction for development in the seedstock flock while offering an opportunity to market those performance traits to commercial producers and fellow seedstock producers,” Ollila said.

He added that commercial producers can use the Western Range Index to improve the ewe flock by selecting white face wool breed rams that will provide improved performance in number of lambs born, lamb weaning weight, maternal weaning weight and wool traits. Commercial producers can use the Carcass Plus index to select rams that will present terminal sire performance in traits such as post weaning weight, fat depth and loin muscle depth.

Developing EBVs

Members of the South Dakota Rambouillet Association along with a number of individual producers from other sheep breeds have committed to developing EBVs for their flocks. SDSU Extension is assisting in the support and development of the resources needed to collect, input and manage the data needed to meet the specifications set by NSIP to generate valid EBVs.

Ollila said this workshiop will lead producers through the following steps that need to be completed when developing EBVs.

What Steps do I need to complete to develop EBVs?

1. Enroll in NSIP. The link to the NSIP website is:, phone number is (712) 579- 6378. If you scroll down to the last paragraph on the “home page” you will click on the blue word “here” to access the enrollment forms. The enrollment fee for is being waived for new enrollees for their first year and those producers under the age of 22 for the first three years. Every lamb that has data submitted beyond 90 days of age will be assessed a database fee of $2.65.

Please read the information on the second page of the enrollment application. SDSU Extension will provide some software setup and operating assistance along with NSIP staff to reduce error, frustration and promote timeliness of data entry. Upon enrollment, new members will be assigned a NSIP mentor from their respective breed to assist them. Additionally, each breed has a representative on the NSIP board that takes input from all breeders and can help on issues that mentors are not clear on. Performance data is submitted into a free software program provided by NSIP.

“This program takes some time to learn how to use but it highly recommended that each flock learn how to use this program. Flocks can hire data managers to input data for them; however, most producers that do this themselves more clearly understand how the program operates and better understands the EBVs that are created,” Ollila said.

2. Evaluate your current data collecting system and the type of data required to determine adjustments that need to be made to meet NSIP requirements. Again, SDSU Extension and NSIP staff can assist in explaining what, why and how data can be collected.

3. Identify, locate, and/or train- establish folks that are willing to offer NSIP certified data collection technician services. The Loin Muscle Depth – LMD needs to be measured by a NSIP certified technician. It is recommended that LMD is measured when the animal weighs between 130-170 lbs for meat type breeds and 170-210 lbs for wool type breeds. See link – Measurement of Fiber Diameter – FD can be accomplished by side sampling and sending those samples to the Montana Wool Lab – or Yocom-McColl –

“Using EBV values in flock selection decisions on economically important traits is expected to improve the genetic merits of the foundation flock and provides genetically superior animals to the commercial sheep industry,” Ollila said.

He added that for seedstock producers to achieve these flock goals from EBV based selection there is financial and time commitments required. Other seedstock flocks have proven this commitment can have economic rewards.

“During the past three years the commercial sheep producers in Montana have rewarded their seedstock producers with significantly higher sales prices at the Montana Ram Sale as compared to those at surrounding sponsored breed sales,” he said. “It makes sense, as the major majority of those who run cattle would never buy a bull without considering EPD information; the same should be true for the purchase of rams.”

A study conducted by Montana State University reported the use of the Western Range Index resulted in the top 20 indexing ewes in the flock weaning 239 more pounds of lamb than the bottom 20 indexing ewes. That’s almost 12lbs of lamb per ewe difference!

SDSU Extension will work with seedstock producers developing EBVs, but more importantly SDSU Extension will work to educate commercial producers in the value and merits of selecting rams based on genetic potential.

Plan to attend this workshop to learn more about Estimated Breeding Values through the National Sheep Improvement Program. To learn more, contact Ollila at

To learn more, visit