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Beyond the Bale : June 2016
36 ON FARM MERINO LIFETIME PRODUCTIVITY PROJECT UNDER WAY The first drop of ewe progeny in the Merino Lifetime Productivity project attracted strong interest from across the country at the ‘Elders Balmoral’ sire evaluation site field day in April. This nine-year project launched last year is collecting data to evaluate lifetime Merino productivity including the relationships between reproduction, meat and wool production, how to best select for lifetime productivity and the role that genetics plays in generating lifetime returns. The demands being placed on the Merino ewe by Australian sheep and wool producers are changing. These days, many commercial Merino producers are looking for a ewe that can produce a high value fleece throughout life, be naturally resistant to parasites, produce more lambs than they once did and on top of this, turn off lambs with good carcase weight and yield at an early age. For selection systems to be successful in delivering such an animal, it is important that the industry understands and can accommodate the lifetime relationships between all these production elements and commercial reality. The Merino Lifetime Productivity (MLP) project is set to increase the understanding of how sheep representing a range of Merino types and breeding objectives perform for this wide range of traits, over their lifetimes across different locations. MLP PROJECT OBJECTIVES The MLP project is a long term partnership between AWI and the Australian Merino Sire Evaluation Association (AMSEA). The project was launched last year and leverages off the current sire evaluation program funded by ram breeders and supporters. The extension of four standard sire evaluation sites to collect a wide range of lifetime productivity data will assist in answering many of the questions often raised within the Merino industry. “Woolgrowers around Australia have been considering the impact of selection at a young age and particularly whether animals selected early retain performance throughout life,” said AWI Program Manager - Genetics, Neil Judd. “Answers to this question are known for some traits, but not for others. It is also clear that this needs exploring across different types of sheep, across different environments and across more production traits. “There are also questions about selection systems involving ASBVs, indexes, genomics, sheep classers – and combinations of these actions/systems as to whether or not they are adequately selecting for lifetime performance and lifetime commercial superiority. “In addition, many commercial wool producers and AMSEA participants have been questioning if a measure of sheep ‘fitness, robustness and do-ability’ could add value to selection programs to help describe sheep with the ability to perform commercially over their lives. The MLP project may help to find an answer to this question as well.” The broader aims of the project are to: • where necessary, provide the evidence and data that the current systems can be enhanced to more accurately predict lifetime productivity A large number of woolgrowers attended the ‘Elders Balmoral’ sire evaluation site field day in April to view the latest sire evaluation progeny, including the Merino Lifetime Productivity project’s first drop of ewe progeny.
In the Shops - September 2016