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Beyond the Bale : March 2011
March 2011 BEYOND THE BALE 28 ON-FARM FAST FACTS l The Peter Westblade Memorial Merino Challenge aims to fully examine both the meat and wool components of the entrants' teams. l Results from the Meat Challenge show Merinos can produce quality lamb meat that meets market specifications. l The positive findings for pure Merino lambs are encouraging for the wider Merino industry as well as the trial entrants. Results from the Peter Westblade Memorial Merino Challenge (PWMMC) have shown Merinos can produce quality lamb meat as well as a profitable fleece. The PWMMC is a wether trial set up by Craig Wilson & Associates, Moses & Son and Industry & Investment NSW (I&I NSW) and has attracted 50 teams of 30 wethers from across Australia. The Challenge is named in honour of Peter Westblade, who was passionate about using new technologies to breed profitable sheep. The PWMMC, which incorporates a Wool Challenge and a Meat Challenge, aims to address the growing interest in the carcase traits of young sheep whilst still maintaining a focus on wool traits.There are teams common to both this trial and the Elmore "Ewes for the Future" trial (see Elmore results in the next edition). The trial commenced in April 2010 with each of the trial's wethers weighed to ensure an even allocation of body weight to the Wool Challenge and the Meat Challenge. Wethers from each team were randomly split, with 15 wethers from each team allocated to the Wool Challenge and the other 15 wethers from each team allocated to the Meat Challenge. The wethers in the Wool Challenge are being run at the Temora Agricultural Research and Advisory Station as a standard wether trial to assess key wool traits, fleece value and will have two assessment shearings in April 2011 and 2012. The first wool assessment will occur on the 7th and 8th of April 2011 and team results will be published soon after. The Meat Challenge, containing the remaining half of the wethers, was conducted at Collingullie, NSW. The wethers in the Meat Challenge were de-pastured at Collingullie for four weeks on irrigated lucerne and then put into a feedlot and fed a pelleted ration containing a high nutrition diet (11 MJ/kg DM Metabolisable Energy and 14.5 per cent Crude Protein) prior to slaughter. Measures were taken to eliminate any adverse influence on trial results that could potentially have been caused by pen allocation, social dominance and kill date. There were over 41,000 data records recorded over the duration of the trial's Meat Challenge which ran from April to August 2010. Clear trends have emerged from the Meat Challenge, despite analysis being complex due to the varying Merino types and age of lambs entered in the Challenge, and differing pre trial nutrition and management. RESULTS The results from the Meat Challenge provide some excellent messages for the wider Merino industry as well as the trial entrants. The objective evidence from the trial demonstrates that Merinos can grow at profitable rates, meet market specifications and produce a product that will last on the shelf and satisfy customers. These results counter previous anecdotal observations in the sheep Peter Westblade Memorial Merino Over 41,000 data records were recorded over the duration of the Meat Challenge.