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Beyond the Bale : September 2018
58 ON FARM On display at the Macquarie and New England field days were the F1 ewe progeny from 15 different sires joined at each site. These sires were selected to offer a range in performance (good and bad) and type to better understand the genetics of Merino ewe lifetime productivity. In total 170 people attended these two days, which for many offered a welcome distraction from the prevailing drought conditions. MACQUARIE SITE FIELD DAY Dr Kathryn Egerton Warburton, the site manager of the NSW DPI-hosted Macquarie site, described the extremely tough seasonal conditions currently being faced by the site, along with the unique ewe base featured at Macquarie. “The site had a particular interest in looking at the role that skin type might play in lifetime productivity. Foundation ewes were sourced from two bloodlines, Centre Plus and Towalba, to allow this to be explored further. These ewes were artificially inseminated for two years in order to generate the F1 ewe progeny that will be the focus of the project,” outlined Kathryn. Using ‘linked’ sires across sites allows different foundation ewe bases to be taken into account between sites. The Macquarie field day presentations also included an overview of the different classing approaches undertaken as part of the project. Chris Bowman, who carried out the professional classing, described the process. “Ewes are classed to the site’s breeding objective as a single mob five-ways. We are also trialling classing four ways within each sire group to the ram entrant’s own breeding objective rather than the MLP site’s breeding objective. It will be interesting to see how these two approaches line up,” Chris said. “The classers are not provided with the sire details of each group, so it’s a completely blind and independent class. “A couple of people were asking me why I had left some obvious culls in the pens. It’s important to remember that all ewes are retained in the project regardless of their classing allocation.” NEW ENGLAND SITE FIELD DAY At the CSIRO hosted-New England field day, MLP project manager Anne Ramsay described the background to retaining all the sheep in the project. “One of the unique features of the MLP project that sets it apart from research undertaken in the past is that ewes only leave the project if there is a welfare need,” Anne said. “Ewes deemed a cull either through classing, index selection or a combination of selection approaches, are retained and their performance followed through life. These ewes will enable us to answer questions around the best time to make culling decisions, and to possibly quantify the impact of traits like poor conformation and wool quality on productivity.” A range of speakers at the New England field day outlined work that is adding value to the core project. These ‘add on’ projects are co-funded by AWI, and include work that is being undertaken by CSIRO’s Dr Brad Hine and Dr Jen Smith who will use the MLP F1 wethers to explore the impact of innate resilience on health, welfare and productivity. “We have developed methods to assess resilience in sheep and now want to quantify the benefits of improving resilience in a commercial situation,” Brad said. MERINO LIFETIME PRODUCTIVITY PROJECT UPDATE During July and August, the Merino Lifetime Productivity (MLP) sites at Macquarie (Trangie, NSW) and the New England (Armidale, NSW) hosted their first project field days. • The AWI-funded Merino Lifetime Productivity (MLP) project is a $7 million (plus $5 million from partners), 10-year partnership between AWI, the Australian Merino Sire Evaluation Association (AMSEA), nominating stud Merino breeders and site hosts. • The project aims to better understand how current selection approaches relate to lifetime performance and to learn more about the genetics and economic interactions, across a diverse range of Merino types delivering high quality wool, lambs and meat through life. • The MLP project runs at five sites where sire evaluation trials operate for the first two years and then continue to track the performance of ewe progeny as they proceed through four to five joinings and annual shearings. • A full suite of independent visual classing and productivity traits will be assessed annually. FAST FACTS Professional classer Chris Bowman at the Macquarie field day. PHOTO: Emma Grabham Pingelly Balmoral (Harrow) Merinolink (Temora) New England (Armidale) Macquarie (Trangie)
In the Shops - September 2018