Merino project data to flow, but too late for this year’s rams

Terry Sim, September 20, 2019

MERINO Lifetime Productivity Project data will flow into the national genetic benchmarking service MERINOSELECT within months, but is too late for producers seeking rams with updated breeding values in the spring ram-buying season.

A Meat & Livestock Australia spokesperson said in June this year MLA and Australian Wool Innovation collaborated and agreed to MLP data being sent to MERINOSELECT under the existing Australian Merino Sire Evaluation Association agreement.

In the MLP Project involves AWI and the AMSEA teaming up with five sire evaluation sites, site hosts and nominating stud breeders in a 10 year project up to 2025 to capture lifetime data across diverse environments and Merino types to help better understand and deliver Merino ewe lifetime performance outcomes for the Australian Merino industry.

The ewe progeny (F1s) from 166 industry sires is annually wool sampled, visually scored, fleece and body weighed, carcase scanned, faecal sampled and classed by two independent classers. The F1 ewes are being joined to Merino sires from 18 months of age and all reproduction data will be recorded until they are 5-6 years of age. The project sires have been selected to represent all breeding philosophies including breeding value trait leaders, high performance industry impact sires, major show winners and representation from all wool and skin types.

It is hoped data from the project will give greater reliability to genomic predictions and Australian Sheep Breeding Values for wool, carcase, reproduction and worm resistance traits.

New agreement is comprehensive

The MLA spokesperson said MLA and AWI have signed a new comprehensive and collaborative MLP data agreement.

“The agreement between MLA and AWI provides full clarity and transparency on rights, terms of use, sub licensing and accountabilities for reporting.

“AMSEA (as the MLP project manager on behalf of AWI) is working with AGBU to prepare the MLP data as a priority so that it can be sent to MLA to include in MERINOSELECT.

“There is a significant amount of work to be done however the terms of this work are agreed and MLP data will start flowing within the next three months,” the spokesperson said.

However, Leahcim Merino Stud principal Andrew Michael welcomed the recent agreement to allow the MLP Project data to go into MERINOSELECT. The Leahcim stud has several rams in the project as link sires.

“Basically all the people who have contributed to it are going to benefit.”

“However, my frustration is that nearly all the ram sales for this year will be finished for this year and we will have missed another 12 months of people having highly accurate reproduction and breech wrinkle score data, which is where the industry is heading.”

Mr Michael said have been premiums of up to 200 cents at auction for non-mulesed wool and the MLP data included valuable information on breech wrinkle and cover that the industry needed to produce plain-bodied sheep.

“Despite this massive price difference and the financial gains that people can make by selecting sheep with the production traits they want and the ability to have sheep they won’t have to mules, people have missed this opportunity.”

He said the MLP Project had the potential to deliver the best information for reproduction and traits that the industry “desperately needed.”

“Reproduction, numbers of lambs and animal welfare are massive opportunities going forward and we’ve now missed that opportunity.

“I really feel that AMSEA, AWI and the Australian Association of Stud Merino Breeders have missed this opportunity.”


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