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Read about the work done by master's student Dillan Henslee (graduated Dec. 2019) at the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station where we identified rams as having variable responses to a bitter-tasting compound, which suggests that sheep have similar differences in taste-preferences to those we see in humans (for example, do you like the taste of cilantro?). The next steps are to determine if there is a genetic component to that, which we think that there is. This could translate into selection for sheep that will eat different types of plants more readily.

Dillan Henslee, Joel Yelich, J Bret Taylor, Melinda Ellison (December 2019). Aversion to phenylthiocarbamide in mature Targhee and Rambouillet rams. Translational Animal Science, pages 1749–1753,

Overgrowth of sagebrush in the western United States can lead to a reduction in plant diversity, carrying capacity and wildlife abundance (Launchbaugh, 2003). Suppression of sagebrush with grazing sheep may be a sustainable method of control. The dietary preference for sagebrush in sheep has a calculated heritability of 0.28 (Snowder et al., 2001), suggesting that breeding selection for low-palatable compounds in sheep may be achievable. Ferreira et al. (2013) identified a set of novel genes for bitter taste receptors in sheep, suggesting that sheep may be genetically predisposed to select or avoid plants with bitter or noxious tastes. Read entire research paper.

U.S. Sheep Experiment Station

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