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Beyond the Bale : June 2014
Lifetime Productivity Program update The Lifetime Productivity Program continues with its aim to increase the amount of hogget and adult productivity data collected by seed stock breeders and analysed in MERINOSELECT. While the three research station trial looking at the whole of life performance and genetic parameters (heritability of each trait and correlations between all the traits) of 3500 pedigreed ewes will not go ahead, the other phases of the program involving the collection of past R&D and on-farm data and the collection of future on-farm data are continuing. Although a considerable amount of effort by researchers and industry went into the planning of the three research station trial, independent expert assessments showed that the trial was still too small to obtain results with sufficient reliability for the low heritable traits especially the key traits contributing to overall fertility and associations with other traits. In addition, the cost of the trial was going to be more than $1 million per year for nine years and research partners were also reluctant to commit to such a long trial in the current deficit climate. The expert reviews of the proposed trial made a series of recommendations supporting the need for older data to be collected and suggestions to improve the current method and analysis of genetic benchmarking and indexes. These recommendations have been discussed by the Sheep Genetics Technical Committee and have been prioritised for future work. The focus of the Lifetime Productivity Program is moving on to the collection of old R&D and old and new on-farm data. The specifications regarding the data required, numbers of animals needed per site and the sheep management protocols required to collect valuable data have been created. In the coming months breeders will be contacted to see how much of this data can be collected by seed stock breeders in the next three to five years and how else such data can be collected. Many of the issues raised by sheep breeders about the adoption of Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) remain, such as: Are early-life assessments of productivity, as young as 8-9 months of age, good indicators of actual lifetime productivity? Do plainer sheep hold their productivity at older ages? Are higher indexed animals at young ages strongly correlated with a higher net profit per hectare over a lifetime? What are the trade-offs of high bodyweight, worm resistance, reproductive performance (rearing more lambs in a lifetime) on fleece value and stocking rate. Recent analysis has again shown that using yearling data is a good start to improving adult traits but that large increases in accuracy and genetic gain can be made by increasing hogget and adult data. Past work summarising the repeatability of ASBVs across sites and years and a new review looking into the issue at recent Sire Evaluation Sites and some studs will be released in the near future. More information: Geoff Lindon, AWI Program Manager, Productivity and Animal Welfare, firstname.lastname@example.org 36 ON-FARM June 2014 BEYOND THE BALE FAST FACTS lThe proposed trial across three research stations assessing the whole of life productivity of 3500 ewes will not be proceeding due to technical and financial constraints. lRecent analysis has again shown that using yearling data is a good start to improving adult traits but that large increases in accuracy and genetic gain can be made with increasing hogget and adult data. lThe program is now moving on to the collection of past R&D data and past and future on-farm data.