Victorian sheep breeder John Bryant says the DNA Flock Profile testing will drive the next wave of productivity improvement in his Merino flock, after identifying the capacity to improve wool yields.
Mr Bryant, of “Cairn Curran”, Maldon, Vic, undertook the testing as part of a training initiative led by Meridian Agriculture, with his results shared with his producer group as they sought to learn more about the benefits on offer from the technology.
The test confirmed Mr Bryant’s selection emphasis over the last decade on carcase traits and reproductive performance had been successful, but also identified there was room for improvement across the wool traits.
“It’s fair dinkum measurement of your flock and it really does give you an insight into your flock,” Mr Bryant said. “Next time I buy rams I’ll be asking for an index to strengthen up what the test showed was lacking in our genetics.”
Mr Bryant runs a 1600-hectare mixed farm, with about 1100ha dedicated to cropping and the rest running a flock of 1400 Merino ewes – a number he plans to increase on the back of the improved wool market.
The sheep are often run on stubble which Mr Bryant felt had limited wool production. Even so, through selecting for dual purpose genetics using the Merino Plus index, he has been able to increase productivity to a point which has allowed for six-monthly shearing.
“I had been happy with the length of our wool, but I wanted to know if we have the genetic capacity to cut more wool and we have,” he said.
“The test showed our sheep are above average for all traits except for fibre diameter, and even though I was happy with our 18.2-micron average for our older ewes, there is room for improvement there as well.
“Before this I didn’t realise how we were going compared to the rest of the industry, so I’m otherwise very pleased.”
Developed by the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC), the Flock Profile test involves randomly sampling 20 young ewes from a commercial flock for DNA testing. It 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.
From this information producers can make more precise ram selections to improve the traits most important to their business.
Mr Bryant purchases his rams through Centre Plus by working through available rams identified as matching both his breeding objective and price range.