Past Projects

Comprehensive Life Cycle Environmental and Economic Assessment of Ontario's Sheep Industry

Applicant: University of Guelph - Bassim Abbassi
Timeline: January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2022

  • To evaluate the overall environmental and economic impacts/benefits from a life cycle perspective, of the Ontario Sheep Industry
  • To quantify greenhouse gas emissions, eutrophication potential, energy demand and water demand based on farming/operation practices
  • To estimate the statistical distribution of environmental and economic impacts of Ontario's sheep farming practices
  • To develop statistical correlations between environmental footprint, economic output (for each of the sheep products) and farming/processing practices that allow end-users to predict environmental and economic impacts based on given inputs
  • To compare the environmental impacts of the products generated by the sheep industry to competing products
  • To create a set of benchmarking criteria which qualify farmers/producers for an "eco-label"
  • To develop a formal LCA report, and present key findings at events and in industry magazines

Final Report: Life Cycle Assessment and Environmental Claims in Canadian Sheep Production; An Ontario Sheep Case Study

Leveraging OMICS and systems biology to understand the genes and metabolic pathways associated with genetic resistance of sheep to gastrointestinal nematode parasite infections (R16-1)

Applicant: University of Guelph - Dr. Angela Canovas
Timeline: October 2016 to October 2019

  • Examine the transcriptome (measuring the gene expression) using high-throughput technologies by collecting samples from HIGH and MIDDLE stress responding and HIGH and LOW immune responding "tracer" sheep; these are novel phenotypes that are currently being investigated as a means to enhance parasite resistance by improving overall animal health.
  • Combine the resulting experimental - OMICS data (i.e. transcriptomics and gene networks) to focus on systems biology and bioinformatics approaches to identify metabolic pathways and genes (key regulator genes) affecting parasite resistance and these novel health phenotypes.
  • Combine this new information with data from other ongoing projects in order to develop more robust approaches for using genomic selection in industry breeding plans by selecting genetically resistant animals to H. contortus infection and have reduced levels of egg output that will lower pasture contamination during our grazing season.
  • Identify barriers to participation in genetic selection programs, and to develop and deliver information that increases producer understanding of what is available and the potential impacts on profitability. This will be a part of the OMAFRA-KTT program Accelerating the transition and transformation of research knowledge in genetics to enhance innovation in Canada's beef and sheep industrie


Fibre requirements for market lambs (R16-4)

Applicant: University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus - Dr. Paul Luimes
Timeline: September 2016 to April 2019

  • to determine how varying dietary forage to concentrate ratios affect rumen function as measured by pH and lamb growth performance (feed intake, growth rate, feed efficiency, and feed cost per unit gain). It is expected to give more accurate information on what level of fibre is required to maintain growth rates in lambs and be better equipped to use by-products and grains more effectively.
  • Investigate which dietary measurements (crude protein, starch, fibre (percentages NDF, ADF, eNDF)) or particle size (Penn State Shaker system) best predicts rumen pH in lambs when fed varying dietary forages to concentrate ratios.
  • Final report click here
Improved accuracy in diagnosing pregnancy and predicting litter size in early gestation ewes; metabolomics analyses for Pen size kit development (R16-3)

Applicant: Alberta Agriculture and Forestry - Dr. Susan Markus
Timeline: August 2017 to December 2019

  • Identify and confirm predictive biomarkers of pre-breeding fertility, pregnancy and litter size in ewes. Targeted pregnancy diagnosis and litter size determination at <60d pregnancy.
  • Adapt an easy-to-use pregnancy kit requiring a few drops of blood, saliva, fecal water and/or vaginal mucus to predict pregnancy and litter size.
  • Support sustainable Canadian lamb production by improving flock and feedlot management and lamb survival by providing a more accurate tool for pregnancy predication/diagnosis with commerical application (local/international markets in major sheep producing countries).
  • Reduce cost of production by early detection of open ewes.
  • Address industry priorities by conducting high throughput sheep research with a unique national collaboration across Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.

To view the full article in the September issue of OSN - Pregnancy Test Research By Dr. Susan Markus click here

  • Final report click here 


Agriculture producer mental health, mental health literacy, and emergency response (R16-2)

Applicant: University of Guelph - Dr. Andria Jones-Bitton
Timeline: May 2017 to December 2019

  • Characterize the lived experience of everyday occupational stresses, and those associated with agricultural crises (e.g. disease outbreaks), amongst agricultural workers (i.e. producers, support staff, veterinarians, government);
  • Determine agricultural workers' help-seeking behaviours, including motivations and barriers, during times of non-emergency and crisis;
  • Investigate agricultural workers' perceptions of current mental health supports and perceived ideals in mental health literacy and emergency response;
  • Develop, deliver, and evaluate an agricultural mental health literacy training program; and
  • Develop a mental health agricultural emergency response model.
  • Interm report click here 
  • Final Report click here 
Sheep Finance and Beef Cow-Calf Finance Program Validation

Applicant: Ontario Sheep Farmers and Beef Farmers of Ontario
Timeline: 2017

Insurance Program Feasibility Study 2020

Applicant: Ontario Sheep Farmers 
Timeline: 2020 

Development of a respiratory vaccine for sheep (R15-1)

Applicant: University of Saskatchewan
Timeline: April 2015 to March 2018

  • to identify the causative infectious agents of acute septicaemia and pneumonia deaths in Canadian feeder lambs
  • to develop protective vaccines against these infectious agents to reduce morbidity and mortality losses

Article: Early research promising for new sheep respiratory vaccine

Development of a vaccine to protect against Toxoplasma gondii (R15-2)

Applicant: University of Guelph - Dr. Sarah Wootton
Timeline: March 2015 to June 2018

  • To generate a recombinant ORFV expressing three different protective antigens (SAG1-ROP2-GRA2) from T. gondii;
  • To evaluate immune response in mice following immunization with a recombinant ORFV virus expressing the SAG1-ROP2-GRA2 antigens from T. gondii; and
  • To challenge rORFV/SAG1-ROP2-GRA2 immunized sheep with T. gondii oocytes and evaluate whether the vaccine can protect against tissue cyst formation.


Investigation of immune response of sheep to gastrointestinal nematode infection under Ontario grazing conditions for the purposes of selection of genetically resistant animals (R15-3)

Applicant: University of Guelph - Dr. Paula Menzies
Timeline: April 2015 to August 2018

  • Describe the immune response of replacement ewes for gastrointestinal nematode parasite infection, particularly to Haemonchus contortus, over their first and second grazing seasons in Ontario.
  • Identify phenotypic variation in the immune response of these same animals to gastrointestinal nematode parasite infection, particulary H. contortus.
  • Identify the relationship between stress and general immune responses of sheep, and the immune response to the gastrointestinal parasitism, particularly to H. contortus.
Sheep industry life cycle analysis (GF2 0510)

Applicant: Ontario Sheep Farmers
Timeline: August 2016 to October 2017

Access the final report for this project here. A summary of the project findings is available here.

  • conduct a streamlined life cycle assessment (LCA) of sheep production in Ontario to quantify its environmental impact and determine a baseline
  • identify priority areas for footrprint reduction
  • Assess potential reduction or incrase of different scenarios (i.e. production intensification, indoor housing, etc.)


Grading pilot project (GF2 0573)

Applicant: Ontario Sheep Farmers
Timeline: April 2017 to October 2017

  • Create an objective lamb conformation benchmark which industry performance can be monitored and measured going forward;
  • Prove that low cost and significant benefits are achievable through the grading of lamb;
  • Establish a robust system for feeding market signals back to producers and OSF, with information on which they can base flock and business management decisions;
  • Produce an indicative retail grading grid and pricing formula that can be promoted to industry, which individual processors could modify to suit specific target markets;
  • Quantify the finanical implications incurred by the processor and producers when lambs fall outside of parameters established during the project.

Executive summary - Exploratory Ontario lamb grading study

Captive bolt euthanasia training courses for sheep and goat producers (GF2 0441)

Applicant: Ontario Sheep Farmers
Timeline: August 2016 to October 2017

  • provided producers with information on how to make the decision to euthanize a sheep/goat
  • acceptable and unacceptable methods of euthanasia
  • additional requirements when using a captive bolt (secondary steps)
  • how to safely use a captive bolt
  • how to properly maintain a captive bolt pistol
  • opportunity to practice on sheep and/or goat heads (visualize external landmarks specific to the species, bolt penetration within the skull)
  • producers developed flock/herd specific euthanasia action plan
Piloting sheep flock health clubs (GF2 0470)

Applicant: Ontario Sheep Farmers
Timeline: October 2016 to October 2017

  • pilot the concept of sheep flock health clubs across Ontario
  • aim to prove the benefits of sheep flock health clubs to strengthen the sheep producer-veterinarian relationship and its impact on farm productivity and profitability
  • veterinary faciliated discussion groups provide producers with access to cost-effective veterinary advice, produce a steady income for veterinarians via monthly club subscriptions, and create further opportunities for veterinarians to work on sheep farms
  • sheep flock health clubs aim to provide knowledge transfer regarding health and productivity of Ontario sheep farms
  • sheep flock health clubs aim to improve sheep health by improving disease prevention, recognition and appropriate treatement of common diseases, and provide strong relationship with a veterinarian when new or emerging diseases occur
  • productivity will improve by better tracking, analysis, and benchmarking of important productivity data on each farm - and participating in facilitated group discussion on how to improve

Piloting sheep flock health clubs in Ontario

Sheep flock health club pilot project a success

Nutritional value and integration of hybrid willow and poplar as fodder for sheep (R15-4)

Applicant: Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre
Timeline: May 215 to March 2017

  • determine growth and yield of hybrid poplar/willow and native tree growth with and without livestock integration
  • determine preferences of sheep fodder varieties/tree species
  • determine body condition score and weight changes when sheep are provided a high fodder diet
  • investigate practical applications of fodder crops as alternative feed (windrows, alleys)
  • determine economic attractiveness of perennial fodder as alternative feed of sheep through cost benefit analysis

Nutritional value and integration of hybrid willow and poplar as fodder for sheep

Price predictability tool (GF2 0180)

Applicant: Ontario Sheep Farmers
Timeline: June 2015 to March 2017

You can access the tool developed here.

  • to build a web-based price predictability tool that can be used to forecast lamb prices
  • resource will provide decision-making information in light of significant increases in price volatility and will act as a market risk mitigation tool

Price predictability tool available for sheep prices

Growth strategy

Applicant: Ontario Sheep Farmers
Timeline: February 2016 to February 2017

  • to develop a comprehensive picture of the econoic and financial health of the sheep, lamb, and wool industry in Ontario, including the development of metrics and data collection to conduct the required analysis to strategically allocate resources to maximize industry growth and profitability

EweGROW: developing a road map to increase the competitiveness of the Ontario sheep industry

Development of sheep welfare videos (GF2 0352)

Applicant: Ontario Sheep Farmers
Timeline: September 2015 to December 2016

You can view the videos by visiting Ontario Sheep Farmers YouTube channel.

  • to produce a series of innovative consumer-facing videos on animal welfare regarding the Ontario sheep industry
  • These five minute videos are designed to cover animal care and handling procedures and provide consumers with information on how sheep in the province are cared for, and will be aligned with the national Code of Practice for sheep
Maedi-Visna in sheep and potential interaction with Mycobacterium avium spp. Paratuberculosis (MAP) (OFIP 0007)

Applicant: Ontario Sheep Farmers
Timeline: September 2013 to September 2015

  • investigate the prevalence of Maedi Visna Virus (MVV) and MAP co-infection in Ontario sheep flocks
  • investigate how MVV and MAP infection and co-infection alters the host immune response

Immune responses to Maedi-Visna infection
Understanding Maedi-Visna
Identifying infection, improving flock health and increasing profits

Seasonal anestrous ewes bred to a novel estrus synchronization protocol for timed AI (R122-3)

Applicant: David Barret, Dalhousie University, Truro, NS
Timeline: January 2013 to December 2015

  • to examine a novel synchronization breeding protocol for sheep
  • test the efficacy of the synchronization protocol for timed AI


Pregnancy and lambing rates in seasonally anestrous ewes
Update on pregnancy and lambing rates

Development of Master Shepherd Program (GF2 0011)

Applicant: Ontario Sheep Farmers
Timeline: November 2013 to October 2015

  • Develop a master shepherd education program for commercially-minded lamb producers wishing to expand their production and business management skill base
  • include the development of the education material and delivery of a pilot program

Ontario Master Shepherd's Course update (June 2014)
You're not too late (September 2014)
The Master Shepherd's Course continues (March 2015)
The Master Shepherd's Course 2014: my perspective
Increasing productivity of triplet lambs: paper and article

Preliminary investigation into ewe feed efficiency (OFIP 0063)

Applicant: Ontario Sheep Farmers
Timeline: October 2013 to August 2015

  • to give sheep farmers information on feed use and efficiency of ewe of varying mature body size
  • sheep farmers need to know what impact breeding for small, medium or large frame ewes has on overall farm feed use and efficiency

Read the final report for this project here.

Alternative feeds (GF2 0410)

Applicant: Ontario Sheep Farmers
Timeline: August 2014 to July 2015

  • to compare intake, growth performance, feed use efficiency, carcass measurements, and meat quality analysis of lambs fed corn cob meal versus traditional feeds

Feeding options for market lambs

Effect of targeted selective deworming at lambing on Haemonchus burdens on Ontario sheep farms with anthelmintic resistance (R12-1) 

Applicant: Andrew Peregrine, University of Guelph
Timeline: May 2012 to April 2015

  • to determine the efficacy of closantel against invermectin and fenbendazole-resistant Haemonchus in sheep
  • to determine if selective treatment of ewes at lambing with closantel has the same impact on farm parasite burdens as whole flock treatment with closantel at that time

Evaluating a novel dewormer and strategies to help control drug-resistant Haemonchus in sheep

Understanding ethnic market opportunities for veal, goat, lamb and rabbit (GF2 0088)

Applicant: Ontario Sheep Farmers
Timeline: January 2014 to January 2015

  • to gain a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges associated with various consumer segments
  • insight into market penetration of meat products and assess future potential of targeted ethnic communities
  • insight into shopping patterns, consumption behaviour, factors impacting meal selection and price sensitivities related to product attributes

New Canadians prefer the taste of Ontario meats

OSMA benchmarking project (AMI 042)

Applicant: Ontario Sheep Farmers
Timeline: September 2011 to January 2013

  • To continue to collect data for a third year
  • to produce an economics workbook for annual lambing; an accelerated lambing workbook was previously produced.

Five key performance indicators were found as a result of this project. You can access the full report here.

  1. A flock large enough to capture efficiencies of scale and selected for ewes that have multiple lambs and the ability to raise them is key to profitability.
  2. Pasture systems and total flock feed use from pasture is important for profitability in Ontario sheep flocks.
  3. Lambing frequency and timing are crucial. Cost control appropriate to system is integral to profitability.
  4. Use of genetic and performance data for replacement selection.
  5. Use of time on higher level management tasks versus hands on farming tasks. 


Opportunities to diversify Ontario wool production and marketing (R16-5)

Applicant: University of Toronto - Dr. Nicole Klenk
Timeline: September 2016 to September 2019

  • needs assessment of the Ontario wool industry to develop communciation streams within the supply chain, and connect urban end users with rural wool producers
  • determining the challenges and opportunities connecting farmers with consumers in urban areas
  • stimulate the diversification of sheep product income, and preserve the cultural landscape and the vitality of Ontario's rural areas
  • Interim report - January 2018
  • Final report click here