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Barnaby and his mates to star at Harrow, just for ewes

Terry Sim, February 16, 2022

Harrow wool grower Michael Craig has a Merino ram dubbed Barnaby.

BARNABY the busy Merino ram will have even more of his love life laid bare at the Balmoral Breeders Field Day Bonanza from tomorrow.

Barnaby gained fame among ewes in 2018 when DNA testing of lambs at Harrow Merino Lifetime Productivity Project site revealed the young sire generated 33pc of the lambs in his ewe flock, while a counterpart sired just one percent.

The DNA testing also showed that 36 percent of the twin sets also contained lambs that had different sires – one for each lamb in a set – and Barnaby sired half of those lambs in the twins.

Now in a tasty prelude to the results to be revealed during the bonanza, Australian Merino Sire Evaluation Association executive officer Ben Swain said one ewe in the trial had reared eight lambs in five years and is also one of the top wool cutters.

“He (Barnaby) is the sire of all of those eight lambs.

“So interestingly enough, that ewe mated with Barnaby every year, when given the choice of 20 rams,” he said.

“And she is one of the best ewes so he has got good taste.”

He said Barnaby and the ewe, as yet unnamed, managed to find each other each year, even when the rams was part of a syndicate of rams put out to join with hundreds of ewes.

“And in some of those years those syndicates had more than 20 rams in them… the last two years the two drops have been joined together, so there has been over a 1000 ewes joined in one mob.”

“Someone sought someone out, or maybe it was just luck, who knows?”

Mr Swain said wool growers will see the outcome of a lifetime of production by sheep in the Merino Lifetime Productivity Project – the world’s biggest Merino project.

He said the ewes at Harrow have gone through between five and five “reproduction events.”

And we see within those sire groups, sire groups that have reared lots of lambs and sire groups that have reared less lambs, sire groups that have cut a lot of wool whilst rearing a lot of lambs and sire groups that have cut a lot of wool whilst rearing not many lambs.”

“So there is all those combinations of traits that we see playing out in the sire groups that show us that the Merino is an extremely diverse breed.

“It has got all these types in it and we’ve been able to collect all the data on all those types that show the relationships between wool and carcase and reproduction and parasite resistance,” he said.

Mr Swain said it is now the job of the analysis team to put the almost two million data points into an analysis that will produce outcomes for producers to produce “productive sheep for a lifetime in their environment for their type.”

“It will open their eyes to the diversity in Merinos and that the type of Merino they are running at home isn’t the only Merino and it may not be the most profitable type of Merino for them in their environment.

“It will certainly open their eyes to the fact that there are sheep out there, be they individual ewes or sire groups or types that actually can do a whole range of things well.

“They can produce a lot of wool, they can rear a heap of lambs and they can do it without getting wormy, for example.”

Over two days and three sites, breeders and growers will see 5000 Merinos from 113 sire progeny groups during the bonanza. It will be the last chance for growers to view the 5-6 year-old ewes from the Merino Lifetime Productivity Project.

Balmoral Sire Evaluation Group chairman Mark Bunge said the bonanza will start on 17 February with the final MLP field day at Tuloona Pastoral, Harrow, in south-west Victoria from 1-4 pm. The field day will feature the 2015 and 2016 drop ewes from 50 sire progeny groups. Tuloona Pastoral is located at 4580 Coleraine-Edenhope Road, Harrow.

From 6pm at the Hamilton Exhibition & Conference Centre, an industry dinner will be held with Australian Wool Innovation and Australian Merino Sire Evaluation Association speakers. Cost will be $45 per person.

On 18 February, a sire evaluation field day will be held at Austral Park, 121 Austral Park Road, Tarrenlea, from 10am-noon, to view 2021 drop progeny and continuing from 1-4pc at Jigsaw Farms, at Hensley Park to see the 2019 and 2019 drop sheep.

Due to COVID restrictions, no catering will be provided and it is recommended that guests purchase lunch and refreshments between properties on their way through Hamilton.

Attendees will be asked to provide evidence of COVID-19 double vaccination or an exemption at the events. RSVP is essential.

For current event information visit and to RSVP click here.

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