WHITE Suffolk sheep continue to trend above all terminal breeds for weaning and post weaning weights plus eating quality, according to the latest data from LAMBPLAN.
A total of 191 White Suffolk flocks are performance recorded on LAMBPLAN, with 833,902 White Suffolk sheep on the database.
“This comprises 30 percent of all terminal animals in the analysis – that is a huge proportion of the analysis and of the breed being performance recorded,’’ LAMBPLAN development officer Clara Collison said at the recent Australian White Suffolk Association conference.
“Eating quality is directly driven by recording using genotyping and in 2016, 47 per cent of the genotypes were recorded by White Suffolk breeders.’’
Ms Collison, of Sheep Genetics, Armidale, was a guest speaker at the conference at Creswick on February 12-13. She said the White Suffolk LAMBPLAN results are indicative of what can be achieved when a breed commits to objectively measuring and selecting for commercial carcase traits.
The White Suffolk breed is averaging +9kg for weaning weight, trending above the rest of the analysis for all terminal breeds. Post weaning weight stands at an average of 14kg or 1.5kg heavier than the rest of the terminal analysis, and the breed continues to push eye muscle depth as muscling increases.
“It’s good to see you are sitting above the pack for weight traits and improving muscling at the same time,’’ Ms Collison said.
She said the challenge was to balance leanness and muscling with eating quality and reproduction.
The eating quality traits of intramuscular fat (IMF), shear force and lean meat yield followed the trends for all other terminal breeds.
“Selecting for eating quality in lamb is not about putting so much selection pressure on IMF that we have Wagyu lambs, but to ensure we maintain the quality of the product people are prepared to pay for,’’ Ms Collison said.
The White Suffolk breed has also made good gains on the Eating Quality Index for growth and weight traits.
“There is an increased trend for White Suffolks for lean meat yield and intramuscular fat than the rest of the analysis,’’ Ms Collison said.
“White Suffolks are sitting below the analysis for shear force, which is good to see.
“In terms of the Eating Quality Index, White Suffolks are trending above the rest of the analysis due to the shift in breeding objectives to focus on the new index.’’
Ms Collison said terminal and maternal numbers on the LAMBPLAN analysis had remained steady but were offset by a “massive increase in Merinos’’ since 2011.
“In terminals, not only have we been increasing index values but also achieving on average five index points of genetic gain year-on-year,’’ she said.
“One of the major advancements we had in 2016-17 was the implementation of the single step analysis.
“This is a world leading advancement applied to genetic evaluations across sheep and beef in Australia.
“The current research and development work is component trait research breeding values for reproduction split into fertility (pregnant or not), fecundity (how many lambs) and survival (reared progeny or not).
“If you don’t have a problem getting ewes in lamb but do have a problem getting them to survive, you can select for that independently giving flexibility to target the area of reproduction affecting your flock.’’
A Sheep Genetics “Ramping Up Genetic Gain” project will help producers make selection decisions targeted at genetic progress.
Ms Collison said a series of on-farm reports would be available online to breeders later this year.
“People will be able to physically see what is going on within their flock in terms of data quality.’’
In the future, breeders will benefit from Sheep Genetics database redevelopment, enhanced modelling for reproduction, new decision support tools and consultant support.