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Beyond the Bale : Oct 07 - Nov 07
By Kellie Penfold The cover photo of the 'Breeding for Profit' supplement distributed with the August--September issue of Beyond the Bale created some interest, with readers wanting to know where the ram originated. The ram was bred by the 'Leahcim Poll Merino Stud' at Snowtown, South Australia, and stud master Andrew Michael says it is a strong example of the benefits of genetic programs, such as Sheep Genetics, which are also starting to be felt by the wider wool-growing industry. "Without a doubt I think these are the most exciting times we have ever seen for the Merino sheep," he says. "We were one of the foundation White Suffolk studs in Australia and we knew just how far genetics could take you. I think we are moving to another level again with Merinos. "Australia has such a great genetic pool and developments such as DNA markers are so exciting for our industry. The potential for Australian sheep to be able to capture potential world markets due to genetic developments in our product is great." Andrew and his wife Rosemary, and their sons Luke, Stewart and Alistair, run their Poll Merino and White Suffolk studs on 1800 hectares near Snowtown, with their commercial wool-growing operation running on 6300ha east of Burra. "We have clear 10-year targets," Andrew says. "With the Polls, we are aiming to push the boundaries to meet increasing marketplace demands for Merinos capable of lowering micron yet maintaining fleece weight, and also improving carcase attributes and fertility." In the past decade, the average flock micron has fallen from 24.7 to 19.4 and the across-flock wool clip micron range has been reduced to 1.5 microns. At the same time, fleece weights have maintained an average of 7.25 kilograms. "Our selection programs have also seen improved hardiness, body weight and better lamb-marking and weaning rates." But the most important people -- the clients -- are also benefiting from the gains, says Andrew. "Our clients have been great. They really appreciate what we are doing and can see the benefits in their own flocks. Some of them have had four or five tough years, but they are still happy to pay $2500 for a Merino ram because they see the results of that investment in their own production." The Michaels were quick to jump on board with MERINOSELECT, having seen the benefits in the sheepmeat industry from LAMBPLAN. "Not so long ago, particularly with Merinos, some stud rams looked a million dollars but they were shed-prepared animals and you had no way of guaranteeing how they were going to perform when you got them home," he says. "Raw and genetic data give you more confidence in the animal you are investing in." Andrew says most clients make their purchasing decisions using a balance of ASBVs (40 per cent weighting), visuals (40 per cent), and skin assessment and tests (20 per cent). "Skin tests have become an important aspect in our stud. No one can guess the follicle density or productivity of a Merino skin, but again, science can back you up." More recently the Michaels have focused on non-wrinkle breech and skin traits, and as a result they have not needed to mules any sheep in the last three years. "Five of my largest wool-growing clients are no longer mulesing their sheep because they have focused on the genetics in this area. It's just one example of the power of genetics." ú More information: Andrew Michael, 08 8865 2085, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.leahcim.com.au Breeder inspired by genetic promise Andrew Michael passionately believes these are the most exciting times for Merino sheep breeding 6GENETICS BEYOND THE BALE Andrew Michael with his sons Luke (left) and Stewart, enjoying the rewards of genetic advancement in their enterprise. Far left, South Australian stud breeder Andrew Michael.
Aug 07 - Sep 07 Supplement
Dec - Jan 08