Navigation Links
Making Sure Sacred Sheep Don't Become Extinct

Animal geneticist Harvey D. Blackburn is responsible for collecting and storing thousands of samples of animal germplasm -- mainly semen and embryos -- to make sure there's enough genetic material to reintroduce a species if necessary. Much of his collection deals with important livestock such as Holstein cattle and Yorkshire pigs.

But one of the collections Blackburn, who is the coordinator of the animal section at ARS's National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation in Fort Collins, Colorado, is working on is likely not familiar to many Americans. He is trying to collect 6,000 units of semen from Navajo-Churro sheep, a breed culturally important to the Navajo tribe of the Southwest.

The breed was brought to this country 500 years ago by Spanish settlers, and Navajos have embraced and raised the breed since then. Over time, though, others convinced the tribe to raise different breeds, so Navajo-Churro numbers are dwindling.

This project is different from others Blackburn has worked on since the center accepted its first animal sample in 2000. "It's really a learning experience for us; it's a step beyond the biology, one in which we have to consider social implications," he explains.

To develop the collection, animal physiologist Phil Purdy, also of the Fort Collins center, traveled to the Navajo Nation to collect germplasm from rams owned by several Navajo sheep producers. Until Purdy developed relationships with various breeders, there was hesitancy in collaborating with ARS on this effort.

Before 1965, ARS scientists conducted research on the Navajo-Churro and found that the sheep did well in dry areas; they were able to produce more lambs than other breeds of sheep. Hand­spinners like the wool from Churro sheep, and they are willing to pay premium prices for it. Navajo use the wool to make blankets. But for industrial wool manufacturers, it has low value.

Blackburn has 1,200 semen samples now from 27 different r ams. He hopes to get samples from at least 50 different males to get a broad sampling of genetic diversity.

If there were ever a need to totally regenerate the Navajo-Churro breed from the ARS collection, a backcrossing strategy could be used. In such a situation, Churro semen would be used to inseminate a ewe from a different sheep breed. The resulting offspring would be 50 percent Churro. The process would be repeated using a female offspring, making the next generation 75 percent Churro. They keep doing this until the sheep are 93 percent Churro.

The collection could also be used by breeders or researchers to introduce genetic variation into existing Churro populations.

At one time, there were 2 million of these sheep. In 1977, when conservation efforts started, there were fewer than 500. Now the estimates are around 1,500.—By David Elstein, Agricultural Research Service Information Staff.

This research is part of Food Animal Production, an ARS National Program (#101) described on the World Wide Web at www.nps.ars.usda.gov.

Harvey D. Blackburn and Phil Purdy are with the USDA-ARS National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation, 1111 South Mason St., Fort Collins, CO 80521-4500; phone (970) 495-3268 [Blackburn], (970) 495-3258 [Purdy], fax (970) 221-1427.

"Making Sure Sacred Sheep Don't Become Extinct" was published in the April 2005 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.


'"/>

Source:Agricultural Research Service


Related biology news :

1. Muscle repair: Making a good system better, faster; implications for aging, disease
2. Making plant cells work like miniature factories
3. Making medicine smarter
4. Making a face: A new and earlier marker of neural crest development
5. Making mice with enhanced color vision
6. Dont hold your breath: Carp can manage without oxygen for months
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:


(Date:8/15/2017)... Va. , Aug. 15 2017   ivWatch LLC , ... of intravenous (IV) therapy, today announced receipt of its ISO 13485 ... developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO®). ... ivWatch Model 400 Continuous Monitoring device for the ... "This is ...
(Date:6/14/2017)... June 15, 2017  IBM (NYSE: IBM ) is introducing ... event dedicated to developing collaboration between startups and global businesses, ... 15-17. During the event, nine startups will showcase the solutions ... various industries. France ... market, with a 30 percent increase in the number of ...
(Date:5/6/2017)... SINGAPORE , May 5, 2017 ... has just announced a new breakthrough in biometric ... that exploits quantum mechanical properties to perform ... new smart semiconductor material created by Ram Group ... across finance, entertainment, transportation, supply chains and security. ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... October 11, 2017 , ... At its ... announced Dr. Suneel I. Sheikh, the co-founder, CEO and chief research scientist of ... been selected for membership in ARCS Alumni Hall of Fame . ASTER ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... October 11, 2017 , ... Personal eye wash is a basic first aid supply ... a time. So which eye do you rinse first if a dangerous substance enters both ... Duo Eye Wash with its unique dual eye piece. , “Whether its dirt and ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... , ... October 11, 2017 , ... ... announced today it will be hosting a Webinar titled, “Pathology is going digital. ... Associates , on digital pathology adoption best practices and how Proscia improves lab ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... and LAGUNA HILLS, Calif. , ... of Cancer Research, London (ICR) and ... with SKY92, SkylineDx,s prognostic tool to risk-stratify patients with multiple ... as MUK nine . The University of ... is partly funded by Myeloma UK, and ICR will perform ...
Breaking Biology Technology: