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Beyond the Bale : September November 2009
25 GENETIC IMPROVEMENT 'ROEMAHKITA' l MERINOSELECT has helped 'Roemahkita' improve carcase traits that can be hard to assess visually. l MERINOSELECT has helped attract new commercial clients to 'Roemahkita' because it provides evidence to back the stud's claims. Joe and Tracy Dahlitz of 'Roemahkita'. the carcase qualities of their stud and commercial flock. Through the selection of high-merit animals, the husband and wife team have not only made great gains in carcase quality, but have also doubled their wool return. Michael and Gabriel run a mixed-farming operation, growing grain and running 1000 stud and 1200 commercial ewes, at Gairdner in south-west Western Australia. 'Coromandel Poll Merino Stud' was established by Michael's father Ian in 1968 and they now sell 80 stud rams each year, predominantly to commercial producers. They joined MERINOSELECT in 2002 to improve the carcase traits of their Poll Merino flock and Michael says it has helped them make great progress in this area. "Five years ago we were only getting about five per cent of our animals at 15 months of age with an eye muscle depth (EMD) of 40 millimetres or above," he says. "We have now increased this to 20 per cent of our animals by selecting animals within our flock that had high ASBVs for this trait. We have also used outside sires in our AI (artificial insemination) program with EMD ASBVs of +2 mm." Using high indexing animals has allowed 'Coromandel' to reduce micron moderately, while maintaining or slightly increasing clean fleece weight. In 2000, the stud's commercial flock cut an average of 6.3 kilograms of 21.4-micron wool, returning $30 per head dry sheep equivalent (DSE). By comparison in 2008, the commercial flock cut an average of 7.4kg of 19.6-micron wool, returning $69 per head (DSE), although recognising some of this difference was due to market and seasons. The use of MERINOSELECT fits into their long-term breeding objective of producing a profitable plain-bodied well-structured fine/medium Poll Merino carrying soft, white, nourished quality wool with well-aligned fibres. Visual assessment remains critical and they have been breech wrinkle and dag scoring their lambs for the past three years to help reduce breech strike. A good example of combining MERINOSELECT performance data with subjective breeding and classing objectives is a 'Coromandel' ram Michael and Gabriel christened Sir Thomas. Sir Thomas was awarded junior champion ram at the Australian Sheep and Wool Show in Bendigo in 2008 and supreme champion at the Katanning Sheep Show later that year. JOE & TRACEY DAHLITZ 'ROEMAHKITA POLL MERINO STUD' -- CUMMINS, SA It took two years for seedstock producers Joe and Tracey Dahlitz to fully embrace MERINOSELECT. The co-principals of 'Roemahkita Poll Merino Stud', at Cummins, on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula, had been collecting and entering data for that period while coming to grips with what the results were saying about their flock. "It took me that first couple of years to understand and believe the information," Joe says. "It changed when we spent $10,000 on a ram with good ASBV figures in 2005. He had better figures than our sheep but to look at him he didn't have a good carcase and seemed a bit small for his age. Well, he bred very well so we are starting to take more notice of the figures. It took a big leap of faith to buy him but the figures have backed up that decision." The Dahlitzs established 'Roemahkita' in 1991 and are now selling up to 180 rams a year, including 80 through their on-property sale. The sheep have been bred from a 'Collinsville' base with 'Wallaloo Park' and 'Leachim' genetics used since the late 1990s. 'Kamora Park' genetics have also been added to improve carcase qualities and Joe says MERINOSELECT has helped improve carcase traits that can be hard to assess visually. "We're well on the way with our wool and would back it against any stud but we wanted MERINOSELECT information to help improve our carcases. We aim to breed plain Merinos with 7 to 8kg of 19.5 to 20.5-micron wool with great carcases that compare well against other Merinos and South African Mutton Merinos (SAMMs) and Dohnes." Using ASBVs, the Dahlitzs look for positive figures in eye muscle depth (EMD), fat and up to +10 for body weight. They also visually assess the wool and structure. "If you have a figure of +8 for weight, that gives you 2 or 3kg more on your lambs. At $4.50/kg, that's more than $9 per head. At 60 lambs per ram per year, you'll get at least another $4250 over the life of a ram by spending an extra $500." MERINOSELECT has helped attract new commercial clients who want evidence to reinforce his claims. "There is a bit more work involved with the testing, but people are trying to attract new clients all the time and we now have the facts and figures to promote our sheep. It's not just our opinion." More information: www.sheepgenetics.org.au/merinoselect 'COROMANDEL' l 'Coromandel' has made great gains in carcase quality and has also doubled its wool return. l Visual assessment remains critical and 'Coromandel' has been breech wrinkle and dag scoring its lambs for the past three years to help reduce breech strike. Michael Campbell of 'Coromandel'.
June August 2009