Sheepmeat and wool producers are being encouraged to set up on-farm genetic benchmarking trials to improve the productivity and profitability of their flock.
The Department of Agriculture and Food has appointed development officer Meghan Cornelius to assist individuals or groups to establish the trials and provide ongoing advice.
Ms Cornelius said ram comparison and ewe productivity trials were a useful tool for growers to pursue their flock’s breeding objectives.
“My role is to assist producers to establish trials and integrate Australian Sheep Breeding Values, known as ASBVs, into their overall breeding strategies,” she said.
“Benchmarking enables participants to compare how their flock is performing alongside other flocks and to identify what traits and genetics they need to invest in to generate breeding advances.”
Ms Cornelius said benchmarking trials need not be confined to wool producers.
“While benchmarking trials have traditionally focussed on wool production traits, there has been a shift in recent years to incorporate meat and reproductive traits, which are more representative of the industry,” she said.
Ms Cornelius stressed that incorporating objective measurement into breeding objectives was not at the expense of visual assessment.
“I want to dispel the myth that using ASBVs discounts the need for visual assessment. It is not one or the other, it’s about using both to the best advantage,” she said.
Trials supported by DAFWA in the past have illustrated there can be significant differences between participating sheep.
For example, a ewe productivity benchmarking trial in 1998 among 36 participants in the agricultural region found there was a $50 per breeding ewe difference between the best and worst teams.
The trial compared fibre diameter, clean fleece weight, body weight, weaning rate and weights, as well as gross wool and lamb returns.
“It wasn’t the heaviest cutting teams that were most profitable, rather the teams with above average weaning rates and weights that produced the finest wool,” Ms Cornelius said.
“The participants in this linked ewe trial were able to see how they compared to the other teams and what genetics to source to improve the productivity and profitability of their enterprise.”
There has already been industry interest in establishing new trials, as well as resurrecting the Yardstick sire evaluation program.
To find out more about establishing a sheep benchmarking trial contact DAFWA development officer Meghan Cornelius on 9821 3250 or email [email protected] agric.wa.gov.au