MERINOSELECT and DNA tech use lifts among wool growers

Terry Sim, February 2, 2018

Sheep CRC CEO James Rowe.

STUDS registered with MERINOSELECT are now supplying about half the nation’s Merino rams, according to a new report by Sheep CRC chief executive officer James Rowe.

The report ‘Estimating the growing impact of MERINOSELECT’ shows that the number of Merino studs joining the national genetic information and benchmarking service has more than doubled since 2011 to 350.

In 2015, the Australian Association of stud Merino Breeders registered 501 (horned) Merino studs and 398 Poll Merino studs. A portion of these studs are also registered with MERINOSELECT.

Sheep Genetics ranks MERINOSELECT rams for their across-flock genetic potential for various production characteristics, using Australian Sheep Breeding Values, rather than assessing sheep only visually, by bloodline or using within flock measurements. ASBVs are available for wool quantity and quality, growth, carcase merit, reproduction and worm resistance.

The numbers of sheep ‘registered’ each year in Sheep Genetics increased from around 50,000 in 2011 to nearly 90,000 in 2014 and by 2017 registrations were over 100,000.

Professor Rowe also calculates that MERINOSELECT studs are increasing ram and semen sales three times faster than the non-MERINOSELECT studs in the Top 20 sires list published by the New South Wales Stud Merino Breeders Association. Of the 45 studs studied from the association’s annual journal’s Top Sire 2016 list, 25 were MERINOSELECT members.

The Sheep CRC leader estimates that MERINOSELECT-registered ram breeders are now supplying about 47pc of commercial Merino sires used nationally and more than 80pc of the semen used for ram breeding.

The ram supply estimate assumes that commercial wool growers are using rams for an average of 3.5 years (four years less losses) at a 2pc joining rate and the number of Merino ewes joined to Merino rams reduced from 20.6 million in 2012 to 17.8 million in 2016.

Professor Rowe said studs are making “market” decisions to join MERINOSELECT rams and the RamSelect training program had helped people understand how to use ASBVs. Growers are using RamSelect to balance wool production with growth, reproduction efficiency and parasite resistance.

“More people are buying rams from people who are in MERINOSELECT and I think people are starting to understand the value of using ASBVs in their ram-buying decisions.

“It’s a trend, it’s not just one year and so obviously people are finding that they are getting really good results from rams they are buying from these studs – those trends lines are really quite convincing.”

Professor Rowe said the trend lines for the studs using MERINOSELECT indicates a much faster rate of increase in ram and semen sales compared to sales from studs that are not members of MERINOSELECT. Sales of poll Merino rams are growing fast compared to sales of horned rams and the trend is supported by the introduction of the DNA test for poll in 2009.

Professor Rowe said the use of ASBVs in the Merino industry is becoming “mainstream” and the “great” rate of adoption of DNA technologies is very important.

His report concluded that training in the use of RamSelect and its benefits should be a high priority, genomic flock profiling and use of RamSelect to manage ram team data should also be promoted and case histories should be used to publicise the economic impact of MERINOSELECT’s technical advances.

Click here to read the full MERINOSELECT report.

Source: Sheep CRC.


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