The International Sheep Genomics Consortium, which includes 26 institutions from eight different countries, including researchers from Baylor College of Medicine, announced the results of a study that decoded the complete genome sequence of domestic sheep.
Through a comparative observation, the study, which was published in the journal Science, allowed researchers to not only pinpoint the genetic differences between sheep and other animals, including humans, but also to understand the mutation they experienced four million years ago that genetically separated them from goats.
These findings, according to the scientists, can help farmers raise healthier, more productive flocks, and may help with the research and treatment of diseases that affect sheep, since the findings are now accessible to the public.
Moreover, the study also made identifying the genes that give sheep their fleece more accessible, as well as revealing the genes that sustain the evolution of the rumen organ, a main feature of the sheep’s digestive system that allows it to digest plant matter.
According to the Agriculture Institute of Texas Farm Bureau, Texas is first among U.S states in sheep production, taking into account the number of heads and the amount of wool produced. Texas boasts over 1 million sheep and lambs, which allow a production of over 5.5 million pounds of wool per year and over 194 million pounds of lamb and mutton.
At the same time, Texas farmers now have information available to them about the genomic differences between sheep and goats. The region is also the number one state in the production of goats and mohair (fiber). It has over 1.2 million goats that produce over 1.6 million pounds of mohair each year.