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Beyond the Bale : February March 2009
14 Classer paul Kelly: “Changes take time. they’re not going to happen overnight.” Genetics February – March 2009 Beyond the Bale sheep. Although they look at performance data, Paul indicates most are keen to see the progeny of the sire, inspecting not only its quality, but whether it displays similar characteristics to their flock. Using one seedstock provider is an effective means of achieving flock similarity which, in Paul’s experience, most woolgrowers do. “those that change type really quickly don’t get the results they want and end up with an uneven flock with no type,” he says. “if you get an extreme ram, [surplus] sheep will be hard to sell because they’re not of a similar type in the sale yard.” More information: Paul Kelly, 02 6746 3145, 0427 476 367 no exCuses, and no plaCe for non-performers When ian Lilburne began sheep classing, certain aspects of the industry did not seem to make sense to him. Woolgrowers, for instance, who were not making enough money from their flocks would make excuses for non- performing sheep. so, about 10 years ago, he started classing for plainer sheep better suited to the pastoral environment and able to provide greater returns. it is a philosophy he continues today as he classes 6,000 rams annually for studs including ‘sims Uardry’, ‘Willurah’, ‘Alma’, ‘caroomboon’ and ‘Mungadal’, and commercial woolgrowers with flocks from 1,000 to 50,000 head. “But you can only help those who want to change and meet demand, and unless you agree on the same direction, you’re wasting each other’s time,” ian says. that change of direction – focusing on an easy-care, plainer sheep with better fertility and carcase – has been embraced by commercial growers. “there will be rapid change over the next five years as growers realise they can’t make enough money out of more traditional heavy skin Merinos,” he says. “You don’t lose anything because plainer sheep have longer wool and the shearer gets more off. they’re better to manage too because, in general, plainer sheep have a stronger constitution.” ian feels that adopting new ideas provides a fresh challenge for sheep ‘egelabra’ produces 2,000 medium-wool Merino rams for sale each year, selling mostly to clients in the pastoral areas of nsW and Queensland. “Most in those western areas are now producing 20 to 20.5-micron wool, lowering it as much as possible without compromising the wool cut,” Paul says. However, he sees the biggest change in breeding over recent years, especially in western nsW and western Queensland, is the new emphasis on meat. “For the past six years, meat has been as valuable as wool and people are not making enough from wool,” Paul says. “Merinos are a better option than crossbred sheep, because if the grower is not happy with the lamb market, they take a hit in price, but Merinos have their wool cut as well.” Paul says MeRinOseLect data has cast a favourable light on Merinos, because testing for eye muscle area has shown Merinos’ contribution to the lamb industry was previously underrated. sheep Genetics – an AWi and Meat and Livestock Australia program – runs MeRinOseLect, which aims to provide practical information for Merino breeders and woolgrowers on the genetic potential of their sheep. sheep are ranked for various production characteristics by Australian sheep Breeding values (AsBv). “When people investigated, the Merino proved its worth instead of the crossbred getting all the notice. there is a world of figures now, and you have to take them into account or you’ll be left behind,” he says. Paul believes plainer, quicker-maturing sheep are now essential. And with wether lambs fetching $100, growers need an animal that can grow quickly before they cut their teeth and reduce in value. “they are easier-care now than they used to be, because people don’t want to be chasing flies, and although we plain the sheep up, we have to keep plenty of wool, as that’s what the Merino is for,” he says. it also appears semen buyers want visual consistency among their breeders who are having to cast aside decades-old systems of breeding Merinos based on selection only for wool traits. However, he hopes breeding wrinkle-free sheep that could be managed without mulesing may provide greater scope to lift profits in most flocks. “i’m finding with my clients that breeding a much plainer sheep lifts lambing percentages, and also boosts the re-sale value by 20 to 30 per cent in sale yards. “this is what lamb breeders and meat buyers are looking for. they can better convert feed into meat and lambs and produce a soft fleece as well.” ian comments that the bigger, plainer sheep made the most money at re-stocker sales in Hay, nsW, while heavily wrinkled, smaller-bodied sheep that take longer to develop were being overlooked. “the facts speak for themselves. two of the best sales in eastern Australia this year were studs producing large, plainer-bodied, non- mulesed Merino rams. People are looking for them.” in regards to mulesing, ian says the reality is customers do not wish to be associated with animal suffering, and the challenge is to breed an easy-care animal suited to Australia’s environment. “You can’t get too much wool on a sheep if its nutrition doesn’t match its needs. You have to select sheep that suit the environment,” he says. According to ian, improved genetics have enabled more breeders to produce this type of sheep and he believes this will increase as more studs react to the needs of commercial growers. “i’ve noticed that if the genetics are not working, growers are happy to move on and try different genetics. Growers need to focus on what makes money, not myths, and get help if need be. they should go to a stud that is producing what they want and is breeding for the future,” he says. “in five years’ time, through pressure to breed plainer sheep to prevent mulesing and the success of sheepmeat, we will have a very healthy and profitable sheep and wool industry.” More information: Ian Lilburne, 0428 505 252 ? ?
Dec 08 - Jan 09
April May 2009