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Beyond the Bale : March 2015
38 ON FARM In recent decades there has been a commercial push to buy flock rams at younger and younger ages, (now down to selecting ram lambs for joining at six to seven months of age). Over this time sheep classers have expressed concern at classing sheep too early and some scientists have similarly expressed concern that the current Merino genetic evaluation system, MERINOSELECT, is too dominated by young age assessments and that there are benefits in greater use of adult measurements. There has been long standing wool grower interest in older age (hogget and repeat adult) productivity data for Merinos. The AWI Board has recently given approval for a nine-year $3 million project with the Australian Merino Sire Evaluation Association (AMSEA), to collect data and examine lifetime productivity on progeny that result from the Merino Sire Evaluation trials across Australia. The aim is to leverage and value-add to a resource that is already commercially funded by ram breeders, through entry fees and a large amount of in-kind industry support. It is planned that 3800 ewes from 120 sires entered in sire evaluation trials over the next three years will be measured for a range of lifetime productivity traits over a period of six to seven years. The Lifetime Productivity Project’s aim is to answer questions such as: • Do some Merino types perform better for fleece value at younger ages and fade at older ages? How do low wrinkle, moderate fleece weight, high diameter variability, good carcass types perform compared to more traditional high fleece cutting types? • Do Merino ewes that raise more lambs still produce high fleece values at five and six years of age? • Do high indexing young sheep make more money over their lifetime? • Can we increase the current rates of genetic gain? PROJECT DETAIL Four current AMSEA sire evaluation sites, one in 2015 and three in 2016 will join ewes for two years with the resulting ewe progeny being assessed for lifetime performance. 90 ewes will be joined to each sire, with the aim of providing a minimum of 20 unselected ewe progeny per sire by the time the ewes are six years of age. The resulting 3800 ewe progeny (F1) will be shorn six to seven times and joined four to five times by natural mating. All progeny, both the F1 ewes and their 12,600 F2 progeny will be DNA tested to determine parentage, in lieu of undertaking daily lambing rounds. The 120 sires entered will be drawn from diverse breeding philosophies and from a range of Merino types. All progeny will be pedigreed by DNA and all ewes tested with the 12K SNP. A new project been launched that will collect data and examine lifetime productivity on progeny that result from Merino Sire Evaluation trials across Australia. PRODUCTIVITY PROJECT NEW LIFETIME Tuloona "Rock Bank" bred ewes.