The impact ram selection can have on wool, carcase and fertility traits was under the microscope for commercial wool growers at the Merino Lifetime Productivity Project field day last week.
The field day, hosted by MerinoLink, was held on Friday (October 27), at Temora, and drew stud and commercial woolgrowers and service providers from south-west Victoria to central western NSW.
On show was the latest visual and objective assessment data of the 2016-drop ewe progeny in the Merino Lifetime Productivity (MLP) Project, a partnership between Australian Wool Innovation and Australian Merino Sire Evaluation Association.
The 16-month-old ewes were displayed with seven months wool growth, and pen cards carrying raw data on weaning and hogget liveweight, greasy and clean fleece weight, micron, staple length and strength, fat and eye muscle depth.
Flock breeding values and the Australian Merino Sire Evaluation Association Indexes were also provided.
The ewes will be eye muscle and fat scanned at joining in December, pregnancy scanned and then displayed, along with the 2017-drop ewe weaners, at the MerinoLink autumn field day at Temora on March 16.
The participating Merino studs in the MLP sire evaluation are Bella Lana, Boyanga, Glen Donald, Greendale, Leachim Poll, One Oak No 2, Pastora Poll, Poll Boonoke, Pooginook Poll, Roseville Park, Trigger Vale, Wattle Dale and Wurrook.
MerinoLink chairman Richard Keniry said the project at the Temora site would deliver key outcomes for the commercial industry.
“As a commercial producer, we rely on studs to take a direction and being involved in MerinoLink gives us access to that information,’’ Mr Keniry said.
MerinoLink chief executive officer Sally Martin told producers the trial was not a bloodline comparison, and raw data had not been adjusted for singles or twins.
A total of 1170 Merino ewes were artificially inseminated in January 2016, with the ewes randomly allocated to sire groups based on body weight, condition score and the Merino Production Plus Index.
All progeny were visually and objectively assessed at 10 months of age, with ewe progeny to remain at the Temora trial site for adult measurements of wool, carcase and reproduction traits.
The foundation ewes are Centre Plus, Bundilla, Pooginook and Bluechip Livestock bloodlines.
All cull ewes (bottom 10 per cent) stay in the flock for the duration of the project.
All of the MLP ewes will be condition scored, fleece weighed, micron tested and visually classed each year.
The yearling visual assessments were completed by Mick Corkhill, Grassy Creek Merino Stud, Boorowa, and Ben Patrick, Yarrawonga Merino Stud, Harden, while the professional classing was done by Craig Wilson, Craig Wilson & Associates, Wagga.
Mr Wilson classed the ewes on their skin and wool quality, and the trial’s balanced breeding objective.
“The fertility side of the trial is important – do we really know the impacts of early growth on long term fertility and fleece values,’’ he said.
“The point of difference with this trial is the lifetime productivity of that ewe.
“It highlights the impact of genetics – the diversity of these sheep on how they look and measure between teams should give commercial producers an enormous amount of confidence on what impact they can have through their ram selection.
“If all the mothers of these sheep are all genetically similar, look at the impact a ram source can have.’’
MerinoLink director Steve Jarvis, Boorowa, NSW, said the trial gave producers a gauge on how different genetics may react in the future.
“Merino sheep are not simple and we need to study them to find out what they are about, and that’s why I enjoy coming to events like this,’’ Mr Jarvis said.
“I’m happy with the positive vibe among the people here today as Merinos are kicking more goals than other farming enterprises.
“The high value fleece and progeny, surplus restocking sheep, makes the Merino ewe highly profitable.’’
Victorian woolgrower Harrison Mulquiny, 21, of Charlton, was encouraged to see the large number of young people attending the field day.
“I’m wanting to expand my knowledge of genetics in the sheep industry and to network with other people,’’ he said.
Mr Mulquiny said information from the field day would be used in on-farm genetic improvement decisions to push wool quality and productivity.
Scott Brien, Bella Lana Merinos, Wellington, NSW, is participating in his first sire evaluation trial with a young ram, Bella Lana 130296.
“We put our sire in to get better linkage for ASBVs and also to see where we sit within the industry,’’ Mr Brien said.
“This is our first trial as we are a young stud and I was pleased to see how the ram stood up.
“The weaning weights of the 2016 drop ewes were good, and we topped the eye muscle depth and (reduced) faecal egg count.
“At home we have a big focus on our carcase and doing ability, and white wools.’’
Mr Brien aims for a big bold, deep crimping, stylish white wool, with his adult ewes averaging 3.5kg every six months of 18.7 micron.
“It’s great to be part of a group like MerinoLink – they are so positive and out there looking for new things and more profitable sheep – it’s great for the industry.’’
The within flock analysis site report can be found at www.merinolink.com.au