Western Australian Merino sires will be benchmarked against rams nationally for wool and meat traits with the rejuvenation of the Yardstick sire evaluation project.
After a three-year hiatus, the Department of Agriculture and Food is hosting the project at its Mount Barker Research Facility in conjunction with the Federation of Performance Sheep Breeders (WA) and consultants Icon Agriculture.
WA Merino studs have contributed 11 rams for the trial, with two from the eastern states to provide genetic links with other sire referencing groups across the country.
The two year trial, supported by industry and the Royalties for Regions-funded Sheep Industry Business Innovation project, with assistance from Australian Wool Innovation, is expected to yield data that will be accessible to producers in 2016. The trial is being organised by Bob Hall and Mark Allington from Icon Agriculture, in conjunction with a site advisory committee.
Trial will measure important commercial traits
Department development officer Meghan Cornelius said the benchmarking program would measure important economic wool and meat traits, as well as worm resistance levels, to enable participants to compare Australian Sheep Breeding Values.
“This will include fat content, eye muscle depth, weaning, yearling and hogget growth rates, in response to increasing interest and demand for sheepmeat,” Ms Cornelius said.
“Objective wool measurements, like clean fleece weight, fibre diameter, length and strength, wool curvature and the co-efficient of variation will also be measured.
“Breech strike characteristics will also come under scrutiny, with the flock being measured for faecal worm egg counts, alongside visual assessments of breech wrinkle, colour, fleece rot, face covering and a structural inspection.”
First Yardstick 2015 lambs drop in July
The Merino ewes, provided from the department’s research facility flock, were recently inseminated and will drop their lambs in early July.
A New South Wales sire, Billandri Poll 60 0571 2012 121391, from the national Sheep Genetics database, has also been contributed to enable a national comparison. The Yardstick link sire is Coromandel 60 0553 2007 070007 and the historical link sire is Merinotech 60 9040 1995 955403.
Ms Cornelius said the benchmarking trials would ultimately benefit not only the participating studs, but also commercial producers.
“The inclusion of link sires will enable us to see how WA rams compare against all other sires entered in Merino Sire Evaluations nationally, regardless of when or where they were mated,” she said.
“The results will enable breeders to see how their sires are performing and to identify areas in their breeding program they wish to refine.”
Producers are realising that genetics matter
Mr Hall said the trial would help studs to benchmark their breeding progress and the eastern states’ sires links the WA ram progeny results with sire evaluation trials nationally.
“You know where you stand with all the other rams that have ever been tested and indeed, via Sheep Genetics, with other breeders and their animals who haven’t been in sire evaluation.”
Mr Hall said WA wool growers are increasingly asking for sheep breeding values from their ram source.
“They’ve woken up to the fact that genetics matter and sire evaluation really improves your linkages with Sheep Genetics,” he said.
“I think it is the ultimate in entering figures to Sheep Genetics if you are in sire evaluation.
“It is completely independent and people can go and see their own sheep.”
The other Yardstick 2015 sires are:
Cam Clifton, Borondi Poll Merinos, 60 1476 2013 130322
Jim Litchfield, Hazeldean Pty Ltd, 50 0383 2011 113542
Lynley Anderson, Anderson Merinos, 60 9147 2011 110330
Kristin Lefroy, Cranmore Park, 60 0139 2011 112771
Ian Robertson, Merinotech (WA), 60 9040 2012 122281
Bill Sandilands, Billandri Poll, 60 0571 2013 130087
Lachlan Ewen, Boolading Blues, 60 9039 2011 110303
Philip Gardiner, Edale, 50 4358 2010 0Z266K
Simon Bell, Centre Plus, ID to be advised
John Greeff, DAFWA, 50 9223 2011 112817
For more information about the Merino Sire Evaluation project contact Meghan Cornelius at [email protected] or call (08) 9821 3250.
Source: WA Department of Food and Agrciulture, Icon Agriculture