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Beyond the Bale : Aug 07 - Sep 07 Supplement
independent providers. "Technically, that was the main challenge -- constructing a single, national system for Merinos that maximises the data's value to industry," Mr Apps says. "The service is also expected to evolve and is designed to incorporate new technologies as they arrive, including gene markers, new traits and electronic identification." A not-for-profit ser vice, it works on the principle that delivery of genetic information that benefits individual producers should be paid for by the users. Industry has settled on an annual subscription per flock ($300) plus a fee for every animal entered into the database ($1.50). An animal achieves a billable status when it has data entered into the MERINOSELECT database with a fleece weight or fibre diameter record. For owners of large-scale or multiple flocks, there is a maximum fee of $2500 per business. ú More information: Sam Gill, MERINOSELECT project officer, 02 6773 2948; www.sheepgenetics.org.au SHEEP GENETICS AUSTRALIA unjoined one-year-old ewes and the balance wethers. "In just two years we can already see a dramatic difference in the lambs from rams we bought from 'Nerstane'.They are a bigger sheep, and we just shore eight-month-old wether lambs and got $15 fleece per head, then sold them for $60 each.That's $75 from an eight-month-old lamb." Before the 'Nerstane' ram sale, John works through the sale catalogue and any available data he has on the sires and makes a shortlist of rams that would suit his operation. He then inspects the shortlisted animals and examines their visual traits. "The decision is still about 50 per cent visuals -- the animal has to look right for your type of country -- but the genetics are what's going to make the gain and get you to your goals much faster." Hamish McLaren of 'Nerstane' says John Young is a good example of the use of the data available to clients, with most still using a combination of that data, visuals, and advice from classers and agents. The show circuit, sire evaluations, wether trials, information flocks: 'Nerstane' has always been quick to put its sheep up against the rest of the industry, and Mr McLaren says the value is also in indicating where you need to head genetically to reach the production goals. "Often the best result from using these tools is being able to recognise when a genetic path is not worth pursuing -- that the traits in that animal are too extreme and it's easier to cull them then and there, rather than try to rectify it by bringing in other genetics," Mr McLaren says. But that use of figures, which includes a rigorous visual-traits scoring system they have refined for their own use, now stands them in good stead with clients such as the Youngs. Last year, they held a client information day before their ram sale, to explain SGA and the effect the data can have on commercial flocks. "We thought it was very worthwhile," says Mr McLaren, who runs the stud with his brother Jock and father John. "The clients really appreciated it: they realise it's not rocket science and when you combine it with visual classing it's a powerful tool. "Once clients understand the data they can more confidently interpret the sale catalogue and ask for more information, such as conformation scores and comments on the rams that appeal to them.We have clients who rely more and more on the data." John McLaren says SGA has helped them identify elite sires for traits that help meet their breeding objectives while at the same time highlighting where 'Nerstane' is lacking. "Benchmarking yourself using SGA allows you to understand where you are in front and where you are behind," he says. "It also allows you to follow the progeny of elite sires and see how they perform." ú More information: www.nerstane.com.au Fifth-generation Merino breeder Matthew Coddington can easily measure the effect SGA has on his stud business, 'Roseville Park', near Dubbo in central NSW. "Last year, SGA was the source of nine new clients who spent $26,000 on rams and semen," he says. "The SGA subscription and additional testing fees cost a total of $6200.This adds up to a profit of $19,800." Matthew runs the stud with his wife Cherie and their four children. During the past 15 years, the stud, which was founded in 1938 and runs a flock of 6500 stud Merino sheep on more than 2000 hectares, has reduced its average micron from 20.6 to 18.5. Average adult ewe fleece weights have increased from 6.5 kilograms to 8kg. Bodyweight has also gradually increased. The Merino stud sells up to 800 rams a year. They service more than 700 clients, and have an influence in more than 200 Merino studs in Australia and overseas. Overall, Mr Coddington attributes this success to a breeding program that aims for a balance between different selection tools. 'Roseville Park' makes extensive use of artificial insemination, embryo transfer, rigorous classing techniques and indexed breeding values. The stud has continuously benchmarked itself to the Merino industry, through taking part in Central Test Sire Evaluation and wether trials and through a database now incorporated into SGA's MERINOSELECT. "When it comes to benchmarking my sheep against other flocks, I'm prepared to have a go at anything," says Mr Coddington, who helps to represent woolgrowers' perspectives to the SGA through its advisory committee. "I have a lot of confidence in my product and like to back my better judgement. I use the SGA genetic database as an aid to visual assessment to back up this judgement, and as another way to benchmark our flock on a level playing field." Mr Coddington recommends SGA's 'Try Before You Buy' program for those growers who find the SGA option daunting or expensive. In the program's first round, 55,000 sheep from 19 flocks participated for free, with the resulting information provided confidentially with no obligation.The program has been extended until the end of August 2007. "Many people are already doing measurements and there are advantages and cost-benefits to joining SGA," he says. "The breeding values and benchmarks are a useful selection tool. However, they are not a silver-bullet solution and I advise breeders that they still maintain a balance between visual and measured selection when purchasing a ram." ú More information: Matthew Coddington, 02 6887 7286, email@example.com, www.rosevilleparkmerinos.com.au A breeder's perspective BREEDING FOR PROFIT SUPPLEMENT BEYOND THE BALE 5 Matthew Coddington of 'Roseville Park'.
Oct 07 - Nov 07
Aug 07 - Sep 07