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Beyond the Bale : Dec 06 - Jan 07
7 GENETICS BEYOND THE BALE By Gio Braidotti Woolgrower and ram breeder Grant Burbidge, of Tarcutta in NSW, has seen wool quality from his 20,000-head flock steadily improve since better genetic-based breeding tools became available a decade ago. Part of the system he uses relies on a selection index. The other is a sire evaluation system that allows Mr Burbidge to optimise ram selection by comparing the gain made by his progeny against national benchmarks for key wool traits achieved with elite rams. With the emphasis on wool production, Mr Burbidge chose a selection index designed to reduce fibre diameter but increase staple strength while maintaining fleece weight. For sire selection he relies on the best available data compiled by the Australian Merino Sire Evaluation Association (AMSEA). AMSEA provides independent evaluation of Merino sires at nine sites across Australia with financial support from AWI. The testing process joins between 10 and 20 rams at a site with 50 ewes each. All progeny are evaluated for a range of both measured and visual traits. Additionally, rams are used in common between sites to create genetic linkage and the basis for national comparisons. "We have been using sire evaluation since its inception, in combination with a selection index, and have made so much gain that now we wouldn't even consider using an untested ram," Mr Burbidge says. "I evaluate progeny on-farm using standard testing procedures and the data I generate helps us to select rams both on-farm and from among commercial sires." Ben Swain, AMSEA's executive officer, says that the first step in using Merino Superior Sires (MSS) is to identify your breeding objectives. "The sires entered into MSS are often those nominated by breeders as their best sires to meet a particular breeding goal. As such, the selection of sires in MSS represents the 'best of the best' in the Merino industry." Mr Swain stresses that evaluations are conducted Superior Sires and the 'art' of sheep breeding Calling all ram breeders! Merino sire evaluation sites are encouraging submission of rams for independent evaluation of a range of commercially important traits Demand for genetic service grows The rapid uptake by sheep producers of the services of Sheep Genetics Australia (SGA), which was launched one year ago, has led to the expansion of the program with two extra part-time positions announced for the SGA team. Ian Rogan, AWI general manager wool production, says Anne Ramsay and Bronwyn Clarke will bring a range of practical and technical skills to SGA that will be valuable to Merino breeders who are new to the program, as well as to existing clients. "I am pleased to welcome these two professionals to the SGA team to assist with organising SGA workshops, training sessions and field days, in addition to providing another point of contact for Merino breeders interested in what SGA can offer them," Mr Rogan says. The number of clients, number of animals in the database and numbers of rams sold with Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBV) have grown rapidly for the program, which is a joint initiative of AWI and Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) to assist Australian sheep producers achieve higher rates of genetic gain in their flocks. "With more than 100,000 2004-drop animals already in the SGA database and plans to increase the range of traits included in the ASBV list, it's important we have sufficient staff to support the program," he says. "SGA is a very important tool for the Merino industry, designed to enable stud breeders, sheep classers and woolgrowers to compare animals from different flocks on genetic merit, using data from a single, consolidated database. "Ms Ramsay is based in Melbourne and will provide assistance to breeders and those providing services to breeders in South Australia,Victoria,Tasmania and southern New South Wales. Dr Clarke is based in Perth and so will be available to assist breeders and those providing services to breeders in Western Australia." ú More information: Anne Ramsay, 03 9347 6059, firstname.lastname@example.org; Dr Bronwyn Clarke, 08 9381 8008, email@example.com; www.sheepgenetics.org.au New to SGA are Bronwyn Clarke (left) and Anne Ramsay. independently under best-practice guidelines so that ram breeders can be confident in the outcomes. Information from sire evaluations is combined into an annual national report, with Merino Superior Sires 12 to be available to breeders early in 2007. The latest report will rationalise genetic measures into a single, simpler language based on Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) calculated by Sheep Genetics Australia. Reports from individual sire evaluation sites are also available to enable sires' performance under specific environmental conditions to be evaluated. Site reports can be found on the dedicated Merino Superior Sires website (http://mss.csiro.au). Sire evaluation sites are now taking entries for the 2007 joining and AMSEA is once again calling for ram breeders to enter sires across all wool growing regions. Sire entry fees range between $1300 and $2000, which covers measurement and collection of information for a barrage of commercially valuable traits. The measurement of additional traits such as staple strength, meat characteristics and worm egg count are fully funded by AWI and Meat and Livestock Australia. ú More information: Ben Swain, 02 6743 2306, http://mss.csiro.au Selection strategies summarised The results of a 10-year project comparing various breeding strategies will be available to woolgrowers in a brochure to be issued this December. The Selection Demonstration Flock project, run by the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) and supported by AWI, proved that different selection methods can result in different wool enterprise profits. A number of other key findings of significant interest to ram breeders and buyers across Australia will be included in the brochure. To order a free copy of the brochure, call the AWI helpline on 1800 070 099. The boys line up: genetic data tells how they will perform. PHOTO: EMMA LEONARD
Feb 07 - Mar 07