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Beyond the Bale : Aug - Sep 08
13 RoAd to 2010 BeyoNd the Bale Commercial sheep producer Geoff Crabb is successfully breeding bare- breech sheep. No wool-cut compromise for Crabb Working with researcher Sandra Prosser, Geoff Crabb has proved that bare-breech Merinos do not cut less wool than ‘ordinary’ Merinos – in fact, their fleece weight and fibre diameter are virtually the same PHoto: EvAN ColliS By Nicole Baxter A n on-farm trial in Western Australia has produced results that suggest producers might not need to worry about compromising wool quantity when breeding bare-breech sheep. The trial at Willyama, 100 kilometres east of Esperance, was initiated by Stoney Pastoral Company’s Geoff Crabb 12 months ago to investigate whether bare-breech sheep cut less wool. During the past two years Geoff has worked closely with ‘Calcookara’ Merino stud’s Niel Smith to select bare-breech ewes with 100-millimetre staple length. At his February shearing, the wool from 531 bare- breech ewes was separated from his main line of Merino wool from 3326 ewes. Tests showed the bare-breech Merino ewes recorded virtually the same fleece weight and fibre diameter as his ‘normal’ ewes (Table 1). After separating the oddment lines, the bare-breech Merinos were comparable to the non-bare-breech line (Table 2). Geoff compiled the results with help from Sandra Prosser, sheep development officer with the Department of Agriculture and Food, WA, who also works with the ASHEEP grower group, of which Geoff is a member. Geoff says the results confirm the value of targeting a management-friendly, self-replacing flock of highly fertile dual-purpose ewes to meet the December 2010 mulesing challenge. He says this focus had enabled the company to operate with labour efficiencies of 17,582 dry sheep equivalents (DSE) per farm worker, at a winter-grazed rate of 8.5 DSE per hectare, in a 450 to 550-millimetre rainfall zone. But the driving force behind the company’s breeding program is flock fertility to ensure maximum profit per hectare. Pressure is maintained on flock fertility by keeping ewes at score 2.5 to 3.0, to ensure condition can be ruled out for conception failures. The approach, combined with culling sheep prone to flystrike, has almost eliminated the need to use preventative chemicals. During the next 12 months, Geoff will expand his search for genetics that produce easy-care sheep by testing the progeny of sires from ‘Centre Plus’ Merino stud and ‘Multi-Purpose Merinos’ – other ram sources noted for sheep with the bare-breech trait. He is confident the introduction of rams from this trial nucleus will eliminate the need for mulesing before the end of 2010. Mulesed and non-mulesed sheep on Geoff Crabb’s property. More information:www.wool.com.au/2010; geoff Crabb, 0427 150 072, firstname.lastname@example.org; Sandra Prosser, 08 9083 1108, email@example.com Table 1 Merino fleece cut from bare- breech ewes versus ‘normal’ ewes, 13 February 2008 Bare-BreeCh merINoS Number shorn total fleece weight Fibre weight per ewe Fibre diameter 531 ewes 3663kg 6.90kg 22.6 micron Source: geoff Crabb and Sandra Prosser Table 2 Breakdown of total fleece weight into fleece and oddment lines, 13 February 2008 Bare-BreeCh merINoS WeIght WeIght (kg) Fleece Bellies Pieces Stain pieces locks Undefined total 3024 136 311 55 41 96 3663 ú Source: geoff Crabb and Sandra Prosser Per head (kg) 5.69 0.26 0.59 0.10 0.08 0.18 6.90 ‘Normal’ merINoS WeIght WeIght (kg) 18,831 975 1698 579 296 326 22,705 Per head (kg) 5.66 0.29 0.51 0.17 0.09 0.10 6.83 ‘Normal’ merINoS 3326 ewes 22,705kg 6.83kg 22.8 micron
Jun - July 08
Oct - Nov 08