CSIRO’S Chiswick Field Station near Armidale in northern New South Wales is the latest site to be announced in the Merino Lifetime Performance (MLP) project, following a national expression of interest process.
The project is taking place at sites within four significant sheep-producing regions to increase the understanding of the genetic capacity for the Merino ewe to deliver high quality wool, lambs and meat throughout its life.
The four participating MLP sites are at Balmoral in western Victoria, Temora in the Riverina of NSW, Pingelly in the Great Southern region of WA, and the newly-announced site near Armidale in the New England region of NSW, which offers the combination of a summer dominant rainfall environment and superfine Merino base ewes.
The AWI-funded MLP project is a $4m, 10-year partnership between AWI, the Australian Merino Sire Evaluation Association, and participating stud Merino breeders and site hosts around Australia.
Up to 135 sires are to be joined to 90 ewes to generate the F1 ewe progeny that will form the basis of the project. At the conclusion of the standard sire evaluation at 1.5 to 2 years of age, AWI will support the ongoing measurement and visual classing of all F1 ewe progeny through four to five joinings and annual shearings.
By exploring the impact of selecting rams and ewes using early age performance the MLP is fine-tuning genetic selection processes and providing confidence in breeding and selection approaches, AWI said.
AWI’s General Manager of Research, Dr Paul Swan, said the MLP Project is a great example of passion and commitment of the Australian Merino breeding community, and AWI, for genetic improvement of the Merino sheep – which has played such an important role in the development of Australia as a nation, and will continue to provide the cornerstone of the global apparel wool industry.
“We are very pleased to be able to add the CSIRO flock at Chiswick as the 4th hub in this important national project – not only does the site complement the other three sites, but it also allows us as an industry to preserve and to utilise the ewes from the AWI Breech Flystrike genetic resource flock, which was based at Chiswick.”
Two joinings are now complete at the first site at Balmoral in Victoria with the first ewe lambs classed and extensively measured in what will become an annual activity for these ewes. The 600 ewes from 24 sires will be naturally mated to Merino rams next year. Meanwhile at Pingelly and Temora the first drop of lambs are now on the ground.
An opportunity still exists for sire owners to nominate their rams for inclusion at the Armidale, Temora and Pingelly sites for the 2017 joining in the MLP project. Entrants at sites receive a full range of visual and objective results including professional classer assessed performance, within site breeding values and ASBVs (Australian Sheep Breeding Values). Sire nominations close 5pm, Friday October 28.
Further details are available from www.wool.com/mlp