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Beyond the Bale : June 2019
ON FARM 37 Figure 1: Sire selection based on: current sire with more than 20 progeny, trait leader for adult fleece weight, wrinkle, Dual Purpose and Merino Production Index. Trait leaders' criteria is highlighted yellow in the table. Helix symbol = the sire has been genotyped (DNA tested) MSS = the sire has been used in Sire Evaluation REF = the sire has been used in the MLA Resource Flock CPT = the sire has been used in the NZ Merino central progeny test flock SA = the breeder has informed Sheep Genetics that there is semen available. These seven sires are also high in body weight, fibre diameter, fat and muscle. They may or may not suit many ram breeders, so other criteria needs to be entered to select the best sires relevant for other breeding objectives and/or sheep types. A wide range of alternative criteria can be selected. If a search selects sires with a maximum Fibre Diameter ASBV of -3.0 and a trait leader for the Fibre Production Plus index, the lowest wrinkle ASBV animal that meets the criteria is 0.0. This is 0.2 score higher than average for the Merino database. It is very difficult to find and breed low FD sheep that are also trait leaders for the FP+ index and for low wrinkle. However, every 0.1 reduction in breech trait score improves welfare outcomes for both mulesed and not mulesed enterprises. Target progeny wrinkle ASBVs to go non- mulesed without significantly increasing the reliance on chemicals and crutching varies greatly between regions – generally between - 0.3 in drier low strike risk regions to -1.0 in high strike risk regions. Approximately 3% of animals have a wrinkle score of -1 and lower. Based on the MERINOSELECT run data dated 21 April 2019: • Searching for sires that are trait leaders for wrinkle, cover and Dual Purpose Plus index results in 19 sires meeting the criteria. • Searching for sires that are trait leaders for wrinkle, cover and Merino Production Plus index results in seven sires meeting the criteria. • There are currently no sires that are trait leaders for wrinkle, cover and are Super Fine type Merinos. • Searching for sires that are trait leaders for winkle and dags results in only 25 sires meeting the criteria. Twelve of these sires are also trait leaders for breech cover. • Searching for sires that are trait leaders for adult fleece weight, wrinkle, dags and Dual Purpose Plus index results in only one sire meeting the criteria. With around half of Australia’s Merinos in areas where dags are an issue for strike and stain, there is some way to go before there are large numbers of progeny naturally resistant to strike in high dag areas. ASBVs for wrinkle, cover and dags were released in late 2009 (relatively recent in genetic improvement terms) and there are breeders keenly selecting for these traits and making increasing gains in both productivity and breech strike resistance. These studs have sires that show up in these searches, however the low numbers from the searches above demonstrate the current difficulty in finding and breeding naturally flystrike resistant Merinos, particularly in high risk areas. Most of the sires that meet the search criteria of the above scenarios are young sires, which highlights the recent progress that is being made, ie the older AI sires bred pre 2014 are rare to find in the above searches. While the number of sires with adult fleece weight, wrinkle, cover and dag assessments is increasing, there would be a much larger number of sires that meet the search criteria if more animals were formally assessed and, therefore, available to ram breeders seeking trait leaders in these areas. To increase the number of sires with direct assessments, MERINOSELECT members can collect older age fleece and breech traits and non MERINOSLECT ram breeders can consider entering their likely candidate sires into Merino Sire Evaluation trials. MERINOSELECT is planning to include neck and body wrinkle in the Breech Wrinkle ASBV as there is very high correlation between the wrinkle traits. This will result in ram breeders with very plain sheep and ram breeders that have mulesed their animals being able to generate wrinkle ASBVs on all their current ewes and sires. The searches do reveal the size of the challenge ahead and the value of new breeding objectives that select for both improved productivity and welfare, given the time it takes to build genetic momentum in ram breeding flocks, and then spread those genetics through to the progeny of commercial flocks. MORE INFORMATION Geoff Lindon, AWI Program Manager Genetics & Animal Welfare Advocacy: Geoff.Lindon@wool.com