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Beyond the Bale : Aug 07 - Sep 07 Supplement
By Melissa Marino Photo by Kellie Penfold Merino Superior Sires (MSS) lets ram breeders and commercial woolgrowers directly compare the performance of Merino sires based on information gathered from independent sire-evaluation sites across Australia. The latest report, Merino Superior Sires 12, provides an accurate tool for breeders to identify the genetic merit and visual performance of Merino sires, highlighting those with the most commercially important traits. Progeny from up to 13 different sites are independently measured and assessed for a wide range of traits, allowing breeders to distinguish between differences that result from the animal's environment and those caused by the genes the animal carries. The MSS report is published every year in a hard copy version and is also available on the MSS website, where it is regularly updated. The report has been produced for more than a decade, but this year it has improved the ease with which genetic comparison can be made by adopting Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs), advancing the use of a common genetic language across the Merino industry. By adopting ASBVs in the reporting, information is standardised across two major sources of genetic information, allowing growers to directly compare data on the MSS and the Sheep Genetics Australia (SGA) genetic databases. Previously, Merino Superior Sires used MSS Breeding Values to compare sires. Ben Swain, the Australian Merino Sire Evaluation Association's (AMSEA) executive officer, says consistent language across the two sources of genetic information should encourage ram breeders and commercial woolgrowers to use the resources to make advances towards their breeding objectives. "It avoids confusion, which is not hard with this sort of information; it's been easy to get overwhelmed," he says. "Now, growers and breeders will be more likely to use genetic benchmarking information to improve their flocks." Mr Swain says MSS offers a single publication where ram breeders and commercial woolgrowers can reference Australia's top Merino sires and directly compare them on genetic merit. Those comparisons are made by joining between 10 and 20 rams at individual sites with up to 60 ewes through artificial insemination. As either yearlings or hoggets (10 to 18 months) or adults (18 to 24 months), those progeny are then evaluated for a range of measured traits including fleece weight, fibre diameter, staple strength and length and worm-egg count, as well as visual traits for wool quality and conformation. A number of 'Link Sires' are used in common between sites, and over several consecutive years at each site, to create genetic linkage and the basis for national comparisons across different years and locations. Differences between sires that are a result of the environment and those caused by Ben Swain from the Australian Merino Sire Evaluation Association. How do your rams compare? You can use Merino Superior Sires (MSS) to: ú evaluate the performance of your rams against an industry benchmark for measured and visually assessed traits; ú use semen from a high-ranking MSS sire in your flock to benchmark your flock genetics; and ú select a high-performing ram that meets your objective to improve your flock. NEW SHEEP-SELECTION GUIDE IN SIGHT Within weeks classers and breeders will be able to use a truly national set of standardised visual scores to consistently describe, record and class sheep for accelerated genetic gain. And in as little as 12 months, Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) for these visually assessed traits will be released by Sheep Genetics Australia (SGA). Dr Troy Fischer,AWI's sheep productivity program manager, says the national guide of scoring standards (the first of its kind) will provide a common language for the visual assessment of sheep and facilitate the submission of visual data to SGA. "After much consultation with industry, the Visual Assessment Scores pocket guide is designed to provide sheep classers and breeders with an industry-accepted set of visual standards -- a national currency if you like -- that will deliver the consistent description of important phenotypic traits," Dr Fischer says. In addition to a national reference for the classing of sheep by stud and commercial breeders, the visual standards will enable breeders to record and submit score data and pedigree information to SGA to progress development of across-flock ASBVs for various traits. "Breeders and producers place significant emphasis on these traits when making selection decisions, hence the inclusion of these traits into SGA is anticipated to have a positive impact on adoption and utilisation of genetic information," he says. The 'wool quality' and 'conformation' traits outlined in the guide are based on illustrative interpretations of visual standards adopted by the Australian Merino Sire Evaluation Association (AMSEA), while the 'breech' traits are an updated genes the sire carries can then be separated. If ram breeders or commercial woolgrowers want information on how an individual sire performed in a particular environment, they can view individual site reports, which are freely available on the MSS website. MSS is produced by AMSEA, funded by AWI and supported by Meat and Livestock Australia. According to Dr Troy Fischer, AWI's sheep productivity program manager, Merino Superior Sires 12 is more accurate than previous editions due to the increased amount of information on some sires. It is also more applicable, with only sires entered for evaluation since 2000 listed in the document. Data relating to older sires is available on the MSS website. ú More information: Ben Swain, 02 6743 2306, firstname.lastname@example.org; http://mss.anprod.csiro.au 6 BEYOND THE BALE BREEDING FOR PROFIT SUPPLEMENT MERINO SUPERIOR SIRES COMMON LANGUAGE, SUPERIOR SIRES By adopting Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs), Merino Superior Sires is able to provide even better information for breeders
Oct 07 - Nov 07
Aug 07 - Sep 07