Trial partners Australian Wool Innovation and the Australian Merino Sire Evaluation Association aimed to evaluate 3800 ewes from 120 sires for lifetime productivity traits over 6-7 years.
The trial will run across three sites in 2016: Harrow in Victoria, Temora in New South Wales and Pingelly in Western Australia, but it is hoped to involve up to four sites. It is believed to be the only trial studying lifetime Merino productivity in Australia or the world.
AWI General Manager of Research Paul Swan said that ram breeders entering a sire in the trial would be involved in a valuable research project that would help the industry answer many commercially important questions. Those that enter will receive a full range of results, including extensive professional classer assessed performance, within site breeding values as well as ASBVs.
“Over the course of the project a large amount of data will be collected which will help us address questions such as why some animals consistently perform year-in and year-out whilst others fade with time.
“Or are there factors that might help us to better predict superior lifetime performance at young ages?” he asked.
“With the growing influence of the lamb industry on Merinos, knowing the impact of selecting for growth, reproduction and carcase traits on lifetime wool is another key issue that the project hopes to deliver some clarity on.”
The Lifetime Productivity Project involves a $3.3 million, 9-year investment from AWI and value-adds to the current commercially-funded sire evaluation work. It will generate 3,800 ewe progeny from 120 sires joined at up to four sites around Australia. The ewe progeny will be joined 4-5 times and assessed for a comprehensive array of fleece, body, visual and reproduction traits throughout their lifetimes.
How to nominate a Merino sire
The cost of the Merino Lifetime Productivity Project is funded by AWI, but the entry fee for the standard sire evaluation trial, which the project leverages off, will still apply. Depending on the trial location, standard entry fees range from $2200 to $3000 per entry. Breeders can nominate up to three sires.
To nominate a sire, simply complete the Nomination Form that can be found on the Merino Superior Sires website www.merinosuperiorsires.com.au, and return it to AMSEA by the closing date of November 27 2015.
Owners of nominated sires will be contacted by AMSEA in early December to inform whether their nomination has been successful and to arrange semen delivery for those sires that will be joined in 2016.
Australian Merino Sire Evaluation Association executive officer Ben Swain has told Sheep Central the project will generate a unique dataset incorporating all production traits, including reproduction, lamb survival and visual assessments, made over the lifetime of an unselected ewe base.
AMSEA chairman Tom Silcock said each sire would be joined to about 90 ewes each year, generating “real numbers” for analysis. Ewes would be retained for trait inheritance analysis and wether lambs would be slaughtered and their meat qualities evaluated.
Entrants in the project will be provided with the full range of results that AMSEA publishes, including within-site breeding values as well as ASBVs. Regular field days will also be held at the sites for inspection of sire progeny and to release result updates.
Participants would need to provide 92 doses of semen for each ram. Doses in addition to what would be normally required for the sire evaluation trial (between 50 and 60) will be purchased at $10 per dose excluding GST. The payment will be made in the form of a reduced entry fee that is charged by the site to the entrant.