One of Australia’s leading Merino operations, Paraway Pastoral, has embraced the new DNA Flock Profile test with vigour, testing all of its commercial flocks to gain a more precise understanding of its genetic base.
Paraway’s holdings include the famed Pooginook Merino stud, with stud manager John Sutherland leading the way within the company for adoption of the DNA Flock Profile Test, which was released earlier this year by the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC).
“Improving accuracy around the use of Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) combined with sound visual decisions is a key focus for us,” Mr Sutherland said. “We need accuracy to make good decisions and we are constantly looking at ways to improve our confidence in the numbers.
“I think the Flock Profile Test is a real commercial breakthrough for sheep breeders – just a great innovation. The response from our client properties, both within Paraway and externally has been great, and a number of producers I know are now interested in trying it themselves.
“It’s really starting to take off among wool growers who are hungry to find out more information about their true genetic position.”
Paraway, owned by Macquarie Pastoral Fund, is one of the biggest livestock businesses in the country, with a sheep flock of more than 240,000 head, including the flagship Pooginook Merino stud which runs 6000 stud ewes.
It undertakes DNA Parentage testing on 4000 stud ewes and uses the Genotyping test to understand the trait performance of its nucleus flock.
The Sheep CRC’s DNA Flock Profile Test was added to the suite of testing used by the company late last year. It involves randomly sampling 20 young ewes from the commercial flocks, for DNA testing. The DNA test uses genetic links with animals of known breeding values from the industry’s Information Nucleus database to estimate the genetic basis of the commercial flock.
Using the same scale as Australian Sheep Breeding Values, the test provides flock average breeding values for yearling weight, fleece weight, fibre diameter, staple length and eye muscle depth, as well as the indices for Fibre Production, Merino Production and Dual Purpose.
Mr Sutherland said the test’s power lay in its ability to separate performance successes or failures that were caused by management or nutrition, from the true genetic potential of a flock.
“The Flock Profile allows people to better understand their genetic position and fine tune their ram selection and management strategies accordingly,” he said.