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Beyond the Bale : September 2016
The very first Merino Sire Evaluation programs were established in 1987 by the NSW Stud Merino Breeders Association in partnership with the University of Sydney and NSW Agriculture. They were initially concentrated in NSW: Hay, Deniliquin, Dubbo and Walcha. Almost 30 years later, Merino Sire Evaluation in Australia is stronger than ever, with nine sites operating in a wide range of environments, all comparing sires from different flocks by extensively assessing their progeny for both visual and objective performance. "Merino Sire Evaluation is truly unique in that it offers a complete package of information," says ram breeder and chairman of the Australian Merino Sire Evaluation Association (AMSEA), Tom Silcock. "Each site involves recognised sheep classers providing visual assessments for a wide range of conformation, wool quantity and breech traits, as well as classing each sheep into a grade. "Plus, we collect an extensive list of objective measurements for wool, carcase and parasite resistance. It's a one stop shop for a breeder to make an informed decision about whether to use a sire or not." Visual and objective information collected at each of the independently managed sire evaluation sites through Australia, is reported in regularly updated Site Reports. A standard Site Report includes results for 11 measured traits and 20 visual traits, many assessed at multiple ages and reported separately. Site Reports and other sire evaluation information and results are available on the Merino Superior Sires website, www. merinosuperiorsires.com.au. These freely available reports are clearly popular amongst ram breeders and woolgrowers with up to 2,500 individual reports being downloaded on a monthly basis. "Being able to independently evaluate sires in a particular environment gives breeders confidence to use those genetics themselves", says Tom. "And Merino Sire Evaluation continues to attract new entrants every year, which further increases the appeal to a wider audience." Whilst Merino Sire Evaluation in Australia has for many years fulfilled an important role of providing truly independent genetic benchmarking information, Tom believes the key to the success of the program has been its strong breeder involvement. "In most cases the sites are hosted on commercial wool-growing properties with a committee of breeders and other interested people managing the trial. Breeders are also involved in national governance, in formulating the trial protocols, how the results are reported and in driving ongoing innovation. Their passion and commitment is driven by a need for independent and comprehensive information about potential sires." Ben Swain, also a woolgrower, is the Executive Officer of AMSEA, the national association formed by the individual sites coming together in 2003 to oversee the requirements INDEPENDENT CLASSING A The Merino Sire Evaluation program operates at nine separate sites across Australia and compares the breeding performance of sires from different flocks. Their progeny are assessed for a large number of measured and visual performance traits, which helps woolgrowers select sires across a large range of breeding objectives. COMBINE TO DELIVER MERIN Visual classing at the Elders Balmoral site. New England Sire Evaluation Field Day. 46 ON FARM
In the Shops - September 2016