Ram buyers have been warned to avoid compromising their breeding objectives by integrating objective measurement data into their buying strategy.
With the ram sale season underway, Department of Agriculture and Food senior research officer Johan Greeff urged producers to use Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) to ensure their ram purchases fitted their flock’s breeding strategy.
The department has contributed more than a decade of research to the development of ASBVs, which predict how an animal’s progeny will perform for more than 100 production traits.
Dr Greeff said ASBVs were an important tool for producers to help them to purchase the right ram with the right traits to improve their flock performance – be it meat, wool or dual purpose.
“Once producers have identified their breeding objective and where they are at in relation to that objective, it’s important to ensure their rams have the desired traits to support that direction,” he said.
While Dr Greeff warned that there were trade offs between traits, he said they were not insurmountable.
“For example, research has shown that some traits, such as clean fleece weight and fibre diameter, are correlated. As a rule of thumb for every decrease in micron, there could be a corresponding 20 per cent decrease in clean fleece weight,” Dr Greeff said.
“However, there are animals that produce average wool that have below average fibre diameter in all flocks. ASBVs and selection indexes can help producers to identify those animals more accurately to minimise this trade off with little compromise in their selection gains.”
Buyers have also been cautioned not to rely too much on the genetic gains of one high value ram but to spread breeding advances across a team of rams.
“Rams that have every desirable trait are very scarce,” Dr Greeff said.
“It is more beneficial to put a team of rams together with different traits but with an above average for each particular trait, based on ASBV information, to assist the flock to head in the right direction according to the breeding objective.”
DAFWA’s sheep genetics research has been strengthened with the acquisition of the former Western Australian Information Nucleus Flock, used to develop ASBVs, which it has renamed the Genetic Resource Flock (GRF).
Meat and Livestock Australia has committed funds to DAFWA genetics projects, which will be shared with the Sheep Cooperative Research Centre to advance the productivity and sustainability of the both meat and wool industries.
The GRF is also available for other research projects, such as postgraduate work.
For more information on ASBVs and the Merinoselect and Lambplan breeding indexes visit the Sheep Genetics website sheepgenetics.org.au