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Beyond the Bale : February March 2009
12 Genetics February – March 2009 Beyond the Bale cLAsseRs envisAGe A plain Merino future Sheep classers provide a vital link between woolgrowers and stud stock producers. Here, four classers responsible for some of the largest flocks in Australia talk to Stephen Cooke about how industry is responding to clients’ changing demands CommerCial reality shapes breeding agenda Andy McLeod. However, these changes will take time. it takes 11 years – or two cycles t of a breeding program – to change a flock. “About 80 per cent of studs are heading towards producing plainer sheep and retaining the wool cut by increasing staple length, but it doesn’t happen overnight. some people think it is easy, but it’s not. All studs in Australia have a type, and the studs must keep their type,” he says. Andy first started working for Merino stud ‘Haddon Rig’ almost 40 years ago, and has been its principal sheep classer for eight years. He also classes in central Queensland and central and western nsW, including ‘tootha’, ‘Bonanza’ and ‘eurie Plains’ studs at Walgett, ‘tyrone’ at Moree, and ‘Mumblebone’ at Wellington. Andy sees an across-the-board trend towards plainer sheep, with sires plainer in the body and with extra staple length being selected, and heavier ewes culled. His breeding goals include developing size, a strong constitution, and a wool cut of eight kilograms for studs and about seven kilograms for commercial flocks. “classing a flock will help a grower improve productivity by helping to increase wool cut, improve their staple length, and ensure there is a good lock formation and enough crimping in the wool,” Andy says. Breeding a plainer Merino, he adds, will result in less wool on the front, so a fine balancing act is needed to ensure studs do not lose wool cut. However, if this balance is achieved, there are added benefits. “Plainer sheep generally have more lambs, as really wrinkly sheep are more complicated and are not good breeders,” he says. Andy feels meat production has become more important in ram selection in the past eight years, as a large portion of income is derived from selling surplus ewes with size. “Over the past eight years, we have concentrated on the size of sheep without sacrificing wool goals. if you have a flock of 2,000 ewes, you will cull 600, because buyers want large-bodied sheep,” he says. “these big sheep are in demand from prime-lamb breeders. i concentrate on sires with a longer body and larger frame, as you want length of body without forsaking depth and width.” More information: Andy McLeod, 02 6884 9018, 0418 465 725 ? he commercial necessities of larger, plainer sheep will ensure studs meet woolgrowers’ requests, says freelance sheep classer
Dec 08 - Jan 09
April May 2009