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David Thomas, Professor and
Extension Sheep Specialist      

60% Research, 40% Teaching
Department of Animal Science
438 Animal Science Bldg.
1675 Observatory Drive
Madison, WI 53706
Telephone: 608.263.4306
Fax: 608.262.5157

PubMed citations

david thomas

Education Research Interests Teaching Selected Publications Biographical Statement

B.S.  University of Wisconsin-Madison, Meat and Animal Science 1971
M.S. Oklahoma State University, Stillwater Animal Science 1975
Ph.D. Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Animal Breeding 1977

Research Interests:
My research team and I have been involved in many areas in sheep breeding and management. While at the University of Illinois, we were the first group to show that the severe skeletal deformity of Suffolk sheep (Spider Syndrome) was due to a recessive autosomal allele. A breed evaluation study conducted in southern Illinois showed the merit of hair sheep breed crosses over prolific wool breed crosses for lamb production and economic returns in hot, humid environments. We currently are engaged in a project to introgress the major gene for high ovulation rate of the Booroola Merino into a Rambouillet population at the Arlington Agricultural Research Station. In recent years, we have developed a research program in dairy sheep production at the Spooner Agricultural Research Station that serves this small but growing industry in North America.

Courses Taught


Thomas, D. L., Y. M. Berger, and B. C. McKusick. 2001. Effects of breed, management system, and nutrition on milk yield and milk composition of dairy sheep. J. Anim. Sci. 79(E. Suppl.):E16-E20. Available at:

Thomas, D. L. and L. R. Miller. 2001. Organization and funding of sheep research and extension in the United States – from research to practice. Livestock Prod. Sci. 72:65-73.

Ponce de Leon-Gonzalez, L., W. L. Wendorff, H. H. Ingham, D. L. Thomas, J. J. Jaeggi, and K. B. Houck. 2002. Influence of Ovine milk in mixture with Bovine milk on the quality of reduced fat Muenster-type cheese. J. Dairy Sci. 85:36-42.

McKusick, B. C., M. C. Wiltbank, R. Sartori, P. G. Marnet, and D. L. Thomas. 2002. Effect of presence or absence of corpora lutea on milk production and composition of mid-lactation dairy ewes. J. Dairy Sci. 85:790-796.

Southey, B. R., D. L. Thomas, R. G. Gottfredson, and R. D. Zelinsky. 2002. Ewe productivity of Booroola Merino-Rambouillet crossbred sheep during early stages of the introgression of the FecB allele into a Rambouillet population. Livestock Prod. Sci. 75:33-44.

McKusick, B. C., D. L. Thomas, Y. M. Berger, and P.G. Marnet. 2002. Effect of milking interval on alveolar versus cisternal milk accumulation, and milk production and composition in dairy ewes. J. Dairy Sci. 85:2197-2206.

McKusick, B. C., D. L. Thomas, J. E. Romero, and P.G. Marnet. 2002. Effect of weaning system on milk composition and distribution of milk fat within the udder of East Friesian dairy ewes. J. Dairy Sci. 85:2521-2528.

Chang, Y. M., R. Rekaya, D. Gianola and D. L. Thomas. 2002. Genetic variation of lactation curves in dairy sheep: quadratic function versus Wood's model. Livestock Prod. Sci. 77:147-153.

McKusick, B. C., D. L. Thomas, and Y. M. Berger. 2003. Effect of omission of machine stripping on milk production and parlor throughput in East Friesian dairy ewes. J. Dairy Sci. 86:680-687.

Thomas, D.L., D. F. Waldron, G. D. Lowe, D. G. Morrical, H. H. Meyer, R. A. High, Y. M. Berger, D. D. Clevenger, G. E. Fogle, R. G. Gottfredson, S. C. Loerch, K. E. McClure, T.D. Willingham, D. L. Zartman, and R. D. Zelinsky. 2003. Length of docked tail and incidence of rectal prolapse in lambs. J. Anim. Sci. 81:2725-2732.

Jaeggi J.J , S. Govindasamy-Lucey, Y.M. Berger, M.E. Johnson, B.C. McKusick, D.L. Thomas, and W.L. Wendorff. 2003. Hard ewe’s milk cheese manufactured from milk of three different groups of somatic cell counts. J. Dairy Sci. 86:3082-3089.

Paape, M.J., G.R. Wiggans, D.D. Bannerman, D.L. Thomas, A.H. Sanders, A. Contreras, P. Moroni, and R.H. Miller. 2007. Monitoring goat and sheep milk somatic cell counts. Small Ruminant Res. 68:114-125.

Mikolayunas, C. M., D. L. Thomas, G. E. Dahl, T. F. Gressley, and Y.M. Berger. 2008. Effect of prepartum photoperiod on milk production and prolactin concentration of dairy ewes. J. Dairy Sci. 91:85-90.

Mikolayunas, C. M., D. L. Thomas, K. A. Albrecht, D. K. Combs, Y. M. Berger, and S. R. Eckerman. 2008. Effects of supplementation and stage of lactation on performance of grazing dairy ewes. J. Dairy Sci. 91:1477-1485.

Mikolayunas-Sandrock, C., L.E. Armentano, D.L. Thomas, and Y.M. Berger. 2009. Effect of protein degradability on milk production of dairy ewes. J. Dairy Sci. 92:4507-4513.

Iñiguez, L., M. Hilali, D.L. Thomas, and G. Jesry. 2009. Udder measurements and milk production in two Awassi sheep genotypes and their crosses. J. Dairy Sci. 92:4613-4620.

Thomas, D.L. 2010. Performance and utilization of Northern European Short-Tailed breeds of sheep and their crosses in North America: A review. Animal 4:1283-1296.

Mikolayunas, C., D.L. Thomas, L.E. Armentano, and Y.M. Berger. 2011. Effect of rumen undegradable protein supplementation and fresh forage composition on nitrogen utilization of dairy ewes. J. Dairy Sci. 94:416-425.

Spanu, C., Y.M. Berger, D.L. Thomas, and P.L. Ruegg. 2011. Impact of intramammary antimicrobial dry treatment and teat sanitation on somatic cell count and intramammary infection in dairy ewes. Small Ruminant Res. 97:139-145.

Thomas, D.L. 2012. Utilization and potential of estimates of genetic value from an industry perspective. In: Research Symposium - Utilization of Genomic Information for the Sheep Industry. Sheep & Goat Res. J. 27:Sym 13-Sym 15. Online:

Biographical Statement:

David L. Thomas is Professor of Animal Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Fellow of the American Society of Animal Science. He grew up in the rural community of Mineral Point in southwestern Wisconsin. He raised and exhibited purebred Hampshire sheep through high school and college. He earned the B.S. degree in Meat and Animal Science from UW–Madison in 1971. From 1971 to 1973, he and his wife served as U.S. Peace Corps Volunteers in Kenya where he worked in animal husbandry extension. Dr. Thomas received both the M.S. (1975) and Ph.D. (1977) degrees in Animal Breeding from Oklahoma State University. Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1991, he served in the faculties of Animal Science at Oregon State University (1977-81) and the University of Illinois (1981-91). At UW–Madison, he has an appointment in research and teaching. He served as the Interim Chair of the Department of Animal Sciences for 16 months in 2010-2011. His research deals with the genetic improvement of performance traits in sheep, sheep management, and sheep dairying. He leads the only sheep dairy research program in North America and was awarded the first Distinguished Service Award from the Dairy Sheep Association of North America in 2003. He has been recognized by the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS), UW-Madison with the 1999 Research Award from the Agricultural Research Stations and the 2009 CALS Spitzer Excellence in Teaching Award. He has been recognized nationally for his research accomplishments by the American Society of Animal Science with the Rockefeller Prentice Memorial Award in Animal Breeding and Genetics in 2003 and the Animal Management Award (jointly with his research colleague, Yves Berger) in 2004. Dr. Thomas teaches Sheep Production, co-teaches Introduction to Animal and Veterinary Genetics and Principles of Animal Breeding, and teaches Animal Breeding in the Farm and Industry Short Course. He served as the Extension Sheep Specialist in Oregon (1977-81) and Wisconsin (1991-2010). For his work with the U.S. sheep industry, he received the Animal Industry Service Award from the American Society of Animal Science in 2010. He has worked on livestock development projects in Kenya, Bulgaria, Indonesia, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Armenia and was awarded the Bouffalt International Animal Agriculture Award from the American Society of Animal Science in 2005 for these activities. He has served on several national professional and sheep industry committees including the Committee on the Economic Development and Current Status of the Sheep Industry in the United States for the National Research Council of the National Academies in 2007-2008. Dr. Thomas currently serves as a Vice-President of the World Association for Animal Production representing animal science societies in the U.S. and Canada. He and his wife, Lynda, have three children, five granddaughters and one grandson. In his spare time, he enjoys gardening, family genealogy, and traveling.

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