The advent of the online genetic selection tool RamSelect has empowered commercial ram buyers by adding transparency to the market place, according to Holbrook, NSW, sheep breeder Ian Ross.
Mr Ross (pictured) manages the 1800-hectare property “Aberfeldy” on behalf of the Melbourne-based Australian Agribusiness Group (AAG), which operates a series of farms on behalf of agriculture investors.
Mr Ross said that genetics had traditionally been marketed in three different ways – open auction, invitation to bid, and direct sale – with none dependent on presenting objective comparative data for the products being sold.
“I’m a passionate believer in fair pricing and RamSelect has busted the whole genetics market right open for me,” Mr Ross said. “RamSelect has transformed genetics from a commodity to a transparent market where I can easily assess and value rams.”
“Aberfeldy” carries 10,000 ewes run as a self-replacing maternal composite flock, split into three tiers of production: a high fertility composite multiplier flock joined to maternal rams, a secondary group joined to Terminal rams for prime lamb production, and culls which are sold off shears and preg-tested in lamb.
The flock was established six years ago and during that time Mr Ross has used Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) and precision sheep management technologies – eID, preg-scanning and individual animal data analysis – to objectively track and improve the make-up of the flock.
Mr Ross started using RamSelect after being introduced to the program at LambEx in Albury in 2016 and immediately saw the opportunity to “tighten our direction” and focus genetic selection on specific growth and fertility traits such as number of lambs weaned.
“It’s like selecting a football team – if you want your team to put in a first grade performance, you need to select first grade players,” he said.
“I don’t get too hung up on too many traits but focus on just a couple that are most important to the business and we look for rams that are ranked in the top 2-3% for these criteria,” Mr Ross said. “$Indexes are a very good tool for doing this – simple and transparent. Some rams can deliver more than $20 per ewe mated per year than an average ram.
“We tend to leave those in the top 1% alone unless they are good value because of budget restraints, as they are normally higher value animals targeted by studs.”