How, when, and what data to collect


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This was the third presentation in a 6-part webinar series on the National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP). The presenter was Cody Hiemke, a Shropshire breeder from Wisconsin. The presentation was given on May 15, 2014.

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  • When we transitioned to running EBVs in Aus, we moved the NSIP system into the LambPlan system. Their software is set up based on LambPlan age ranges. These age ranges will work, but the EBVs will be more accurate if you can plan contemporary groups based on the NSIP Guidelines.
  • Even for smaller flocks, using EBVs within the flock can help track performance.
  • How, when, and what data to collect

    1. 1. NSIP Webinar Series How, when, and what data to collect May 15, 2014 Cody Hiemke NSIP Vice-Chairman
    2. 2. Discussion Topics 1) NSIP Production Data Collection Table 2) Understand Contemporary Groups, and how to optimize them 3) Online information 4) Basic Data that can be Collected, When it should be Collected, and the EBVs that will result 5) Additional Data that can be collected
    3. 3. NSIP Production Data Collection Table Age used to describe different traits NSIP Guidelines for Age Ranges (duration in parenthesis) LambPlan Guidelines for Age Ranges (duration in parenthesis) Pedigree Master Minimum and Maximum Ages Live weight (lb) Muscle & fat depth (mm) Fleece traits Scrotal Circumference (cm) Worm egg count (epg) Birth < 24 hours (35d) < 24 hours (42d) < 24 hours YES Weaning 42 – 90 days (35) 40 - 120 days (42) 32 – 132 days YES YES Early post-weaning* 91 - 150 days (35) 80 - 240 days (42) 64 – 264 days YES YES YES YES Post weaning 151 - 304 days (35) 160 - 340 days (42) 128 – 374 days YES YES YES YES YES Yearling 305 – 426 d, 10 – 14 mo. 290 - 430 days (70) 232 – 473 days YES YES YES YES YES Hogget 427 – 580 d, 14 -19 mo. 410 - 550 days (70) 320 – 660 days YES YES YES YES Adult 2Y n/a 530 - 1000 days 421 – 1107 days YES** YES Adult 3Y n/a 890 - 1300 days 655 – 1549 days YES** YES Adult 4Y n/a 1260 - 1660 days 918 – 1990 days YES** YES Adult 5Y n/a 1600 - 2030 days 1181 – 2553 days YES** YES Breed groupings for which these traits are available Terminal YES YES YES Soon Western Range YES YES YES YES Soon Maternal Wool YES YES YES YES YES Hair YES YES YES YES Goats YES YES YES Soon *For extensively managed operations, the early post-weaning category can suffice for a weaning category. Determine the best category by optimizing the contemporary groups within the date ranges. **Live weights can be entered for these traits, but the adjustment factors are not active and therefore EBVs are not yet available.
    4. 4. Contemporary Groups A contemporary group is a set of animals that are managed and fed the same within a specified age range. Different sires represented within the same contemporary groups allows for genetic comparisons. Similar genetics represented in different contemporary groups (different seasons, farms, production, feeding, and/or management systems) allows NSIP to compare genetics across different environments. Properly designed contemporary groups will increase EBV accuracy.
    5. 5. Contemporary Groups Planning an optimum contemporary group can start when breeding groups and dates are planned. Planning considerations: • At least two sires should be represented per group to provide for distinct genetic competition • Each ram should sire at least 15 lambs that will compete against each other within a contemporary group • Ideally a ram or another ram closely related should be represented in subsequent contemporary/breeding groups to provide genetic connectivity over time. • Keep in mind you might “throw out” data on some lambs due to injury or sickness, or maybe you sell light lambs into an ethic trade or to 4-H kids before a post-weaning measurement is taken. • Wethers are placed into a different contemporary group. This should be a consideration when developing contemporary groups if you castrate.
    6. 6. Contemporary Groups A real life example of contemporary group planning successes and failures for a smaller flock. The Plan: …”Sheep don’t read spreadsheets.” - Attributed to the presenter of this webinar, muttered occasionally Early Drop Mature Ewes (bred to lamb 2/2/14 to 2/25/14, a 23 day period) Fall 2013 Sires # of Ewes Anticipated lambing % Anticipated Lambs Born Per Sire FG 5815 QR 1,1 15 170% 25.5 MM 12005 QR 4,4 12 170% 20.4 MM 12007 QR 1,4 13 170% 22.1 Late Drop Yearling Ewes (bred to lamb 3/18/14 to 4/10/14, a 23 day period) Fall 2013 Sires # of Ewes Anticipated lambing % Anticipated Lambs Born Per Sire FG 5815 QR 1,1 3 110% 3.3 MM 12005 QR 4,4 3 110% 3.3 MM 12007 QR 1,4 3 110% 3.3
    7. 7. Contemporary Groups Unanticipated variations in “The Plan”: • Five ewes bred to the two least-used rams were sold • One mature ewe didn’t settle in the first breeding, one ewe lamb was open • Four lambs dropped out of contemporary groups due to sickness and injury • The sheep didn’t read the spreadsheets!
    8. 8. Contemporary Groups The Results: Comments and conclusions: • The late drop contemporary groups are sub-ideal (known from the get-go). • The early drop groups for 12005 and 12007 are slightly smaller than ideal. • Better contemporary groups would have been realized if the bred ewes weren’t sold last fall. • A wider lambing percentage variation could have been anticipated considering the age of ewes to which the rams were exposed. • Pumpkins have the flushing ability of corn. • HAVE A PLAN! Early Drop Ewes (lambed in a 26 day window) Fall 2013 Sires # of ewes Actual lambing% # of live lambs minus "throw-out" lambs Lambs per contemporary group FG 5815 QR 1,1 15 200% 30 0 30 MM 12005 QR 4,4 11 145% 16 2 14 MM 12007 QR 1,4 9 156% 14 2 12 35 60 Late Drop Ewes (lambed in an 18 day window) Fall 2013 Sires # of ewes Actual lambing% # of live lambs minus "throw-out" lambs Lambs per contemporary group FG 5815 QR 1,1 2 150% 3 0 3 MM 12005 QR 4,4 4 150% 6 0 6 MM 12007 QR 1,4 2 100% 2 0 2 8 11
    9. 9. Contemporary Groups: Date Planning Excel can be very helpful. Dates can be subtracted from one another to calculate days of age, and target ages can be added to dates to determine target dates. Make tweaks to the target weigh dates based on personal schedules and the deadlines for data runs. Lamb ID Date Born Wean Wt date DOA at "wean" Wt EPW Wt date DOA at EPW Wt 1401 1/31/14 4/14/14 73 6/27/14 147 1461 2/26/14 4/14/14 47 6/27/14 121 1462 3/19/14 5/23/14 65 7/27/14 130 1472 4/6/14 5/23/14 47 7/27/14 112 WWT youngest 40 days WWT Target 75 days (when oldest lamb is 75d) WWT oldest 120 days EPWT youngest 80 days EPWT target 150 days (when oldest lamb is 75d) EPWT oldest 240 days Target date for early drop WWT: 4/16/14 Age of youngest lamb in group at Target WWT date: 49 Target date for late drop WWT: 6/2/14 Age of youngest lamb in group at Target WWT date: 57 Early drop ultrasound date no later than: 6/30/14 Age of youngest lamb in group at above date: 124 Late drop ultrasound date no later than: 8/16/14 Age of youngest lamb in group at above date: 132 Notes: 4/14 was chosen for the early drop WWT so that data could be entered for the 4/14 run. 5/23 was chosen for the late drop WWT because that’s about when those ewes will run out of feed, and the target dates for ultrasound were moved up so that the information could be included in the earlier data run.
    10. 10. Contemporary Groups: Final Thoughts Sub-optimal contemporary groups will lead to lower EBV accuracy. It is important to consider - if your flock is too small to develop ideal contemporary groups with two sires - that SOME production information is better than NONE. To quote Dr. Notter: “the goal is whole-flock recording…as far as I am concerned, a contemporary group of 2 is still data.” EBVs are more accurate than adjusted weights since they take into account pedigree performance and adjust for environmental influences. EBVs can do an excellent job of tracking and benchmarking within-flock performance.
    11. 11. Online Resources • The NSIP “Educational Info” website page ( has numerous helpful documents linked in the lower right corner, including EBV descriptions and notebooks from Dr. Notter. • The “NSIP Info” website page also has links to resources (, including the new Pedigree Master Manual which can be found linked on this page: • The LambPlan Breeders Quality Assurance Manual is an excellent resource and can be downloaded from their site: guidelines. • LambPlan also has a variety of brochures and fact sheet: and-fact-sheets. Keep in mind, some of the information provided in the LambPlan documents is not valid for NSIP.
    12. 12. Weights are a keystone to EBVs. Birth weights (< 24 hours ) can be very easy to record if it fits into your production system. We simply use a 5 gallon bucket and a hanging scale. Weights are taken when navels are dipped and same-sex twin/trip lambs are “marked”. If your management system doesn’t allow a simple opportunity to collect birth weights, don’t sweat it. Data to Collect: Weights
    13. 13. Weights are a keystone to EBVs. Whether you participate in NSIP or not, a good scale and handling system is a great long term investment. I have a decent scale setup for my size flock. The time commitment is nominal; I can weigh 100 lambs in an hour. Data to Collect: Weights
    14. 14. Data to Collect: Birth and Weaning Basics • Parentage • Birth Date, Type of Birth, and Rearing Type Record all open ewes, dead and aborted lambs • Birth Weights (pounds, not a deal breaker if not feasible) • Weaning Weight (pounds, range of age = 40-120 days, 42-90 would be best) Often referred to as a 60-day weight, weaning weights DO NOT need to be taken right at weaning. For extensively managed flocks that wean ewes after 120 days (and assuming those ewes are still milking well), one might consider using the early post-weaning (80 to 240 day) category as a recording time for weaning weights. Plan the date accordingly to optimize contemporary groups. Relevant for all breeds, birth and weaning data will provide EBVs for: BWT, WWT, MWWT, NLB, NLW. Some of these data points will influence other traits (i.e. post- weaning) to which they are correlated.
    15. 15. Data to Collect: Post-Weaning Weights Three Main Pre-Adult Categories: • Early post-weaning (80 - 240 day age range, 91 – 150 preferred) – Generally suited for flocks that creep feed lambs and/or grain immediately after weaning at approximately two months of age – Might also be suitable for the first weight on extensively raised lambs as a “weaning weight” • Post-Weaning (160 - 340 day age range, 151 – 304 preferred) – Generally geared toward forage-based and range flocks • Yearling (290 - 430 days, 305 – 426 preferred) – Can work as an additional weigh category (and wool trait and fecal egg count data collection time) for all flock types if contemporary group structure is well maintained Relevant for all breeds, weights corresponding to the categories above will develop post-weaning growth EBVs. Each of these categories are highly correlated for growth.
    16. 16. Data to Collect: Carcass Traits Ultrasound measurements are best obtained during early post-weaning, post-weaning or yearling age categories. Ultrasound measurements are best taken at a time when the lambs are nearest the weight they would be harvested. Ultrasound results must be accompanied by weights (lbs) obtained within 7 days of ultrasound. Terminal sire breed lambs must be a minimum of 66 pounds for the lamb’s data to be entered. Ultrasound dates prior to the yearling category will generally offer better contemporary groups.
    17. 17. Data to Collect: Carcass Traits EBVs for carcass traits are available on all breeds. Carcass traits (loin depth and fat thickness) are collected between the 12th and 13th rib and are reported in metric (mm). An excellent reference sheet can be found here: content/uploads/2011/05/Recording-and-reporting-scanning-data.pdf. The NSIP ultrasound committee is proposing to the NSIP Board that certified ultrasound technicians must be used effective January 1, 2016 (this is not yet approved). A list of certified ultrasound technicians can be found here: scanners.pdf. A new certification program is schedule for next week on Thursday, May 22nd. Note: if the files change in the future, the above links may not work. Go to the website to find these documents.
    18. 18. Data to Collect: Adult Weights Selection for increased post weaning growth generally increases mature body size, resulting in higher maintenance costs. Maintenance costs can be decreased if a breeder discriminates between high post-weaning growth and lower mature weights. This is a tall order since all the weight categories are positively correlated. The following is a table of genetic correlations between different weight categories for Western Range breeds: Hogget weights (410 to 550 days of age) are moderately heritable and will respond to selection. Hogget weights can be submitted for Western Range breeds, but for some producers that age range might be confounded by various contemporary group variations (open vs. bred/weaned). It is advisable to collect weights on adult ewes at breeding. The NSIP Technical Advisory Committee is evaluating the opportunity for hogget and adult weight EBVs in additional breed groups. Note: the Western Range Index addresses mature weights by placing a positive emphasis on post- weaning growth and a negative emphasis on hogget weight. Weight Weight Birth Weaning Postweaning Yearling Hogget Birth 0.50 0.45 0.30 0.20 Weaning 0.88 0.35 0.25 Postweaning 0.65 0.40 Yearling 0.70
    19. 19. Data to Collect – Fleece/Wool Fleece and wool traits include: (1) Fleece Weight, (2) Fiber diameter (microns), (3) Fiber Diameter Coefficient of Variance, (4) Fiber Curvature, and (5) Staple length (mm) An excellent reference to explain these traits is found in the September 1, 2011 NSIP EBV Notebook for Western Range Genetic Evaluations: Targhee.pdf. Note: if the file changes in the future, the above links may not work. Go to the website to find these documents. Wool Data can be collected at various points between post-weaning and five years of age. Only yearling, hogget, and the first-recorded adult fleece (2 to 5 year) data is evaluated for EBVs; subsequent adult data can be entered to be stored in Pedigree Master.
    20. 20. Data to Collect – Fleece/Wool Due to high heritability, wool trait EBVs can be calculated based off a single data submission for each of the three time periods used to calculated the EBVs. If previously shorn, the shearing date needs to be included during data entry even if fleece weight/traits weren’t obtained during the prior shearing. This is done so that the proper shearing interval is calculated. If obtaining breeding and fleece weights on different dates, one might need to get creative on choosing dates for entry.
    21. 21. List of Wool Labs Texas A&M San Angelo Wool Lab research-laboratory/ Yocom-McColl Wool Testing Labs
    22. 22. Data to Collect: Fecal Egg Counts The Worm Egg Count (WEC) EBV evaluates the genetic merit for parasite resistance from egg counts evaluated at weaning, early post-, or post- weaning ages. WEC can also be recorded at older ages, but that data is not currently used to calculate EBVs. If multiple WEC are recorded only the first recording will be used to calculate EBVs, so make sure it is the most representative data that is first- entered.
    23. 23. Data to Collect: Fecal Egg Counts Dr. Dave Notter and Dr. Joan Burke have been researching WEC in ewes at lambing. It is possible in the future WEC can be obtained on adult ewes from 7 days prior until three weeks after lambing, but this research is not yet complete. Currently Hair and Polypay sheep have access to WEC EBVs. Dr. Notter will soon provide access to all other breeds.
    24. 24. Data to Collect: Additional Optional data that can be collected: • Breeding Date (for gestation length) Currently no report from NSIP, but it can be recorded in Pedigree Master. • Dystocia scoring Currently no report from NSIP, but it can be recorded in Pedigree Master. Reference 1 through 5 scale in Pedigree Master for scoring system. • Scrotal Circumference (PSC, cm) Can be obtained at early post-weaning, post-weaning and yearling time frames. An early post- or post-weaning measurement will likely offer a better contemporary group. Scrotal Circumference SHOULD NOT be taken at weaning
    25. 25. Data to Collect: NSIP Time Commitment • At lambing, what I do for NSIP is the same as what I did prior to NSIP and a fundamental basis for purebred record keeping = 0 hours. • To weigh the 50 to 80 lambs at weaning = 1 hour. • To weigh 50 to 80 lambs at post-weaning = 50 minutes. (lambs move through the chute easier) • To ultrasound lambs (as producer, not technician) = 2 hours. • Time required to enter all this data into Pedigree Master and submit = 3 hours, maximum, once you’re used to the system. • Time required to study the results = as long as you want. • Total NSIP time: 6 hours and 50 minutes.
    26. 26. It took more time to develop this PowerPoint than it does for to collect and enter the required data for NSIP! Start collecting production data. You can’t enter it into NSIP until you have it collected. Questions?