Wool and carcass trait leader in Merino trial

Kim Woods | Outcross Media | June 14, 2016

Wool-and-carcass-trait-leader-in-Merino-trialA NSW Merino ram has left its mark on an interstate sire evaluation trial with dominant results for both carcass and wool traits.

The ram, Mumblebone -130850, has emerged in the Elders Balmoral Sire Evaluation Trial as a leader in weaning weight and post weaning weight, fibre diameter coefficient of variation, and the percentage of tops at classing.

The ram was also a leader on legs and feet soundness, low body wrinkle and breech cover, and reduced wrinkle at marking and post weaning.

Mumblebone Merinos stud principal Chad Taylor, of Wellington, said there was no need for commercial woolgrowers to look beyond the Merino for growth rate and carcass to increase profitability. Co-ordinated by the Elders Balmoral Sire Evaluation management committee, the trial is run at Harrow, in western Victoria, under the auspices of the Australian Merino Sire Evaluation Association.

Twenty-five Merino sires from Victoria, NSW, South Australia and Western Australia, were joined to mature commercial Merino ewes. Two link sires, including Mumblebone 130389, were used by artificial insemination. This year, the trial is being run in 470mm rainfall country using a superfine ewe base averaging 17.2 micron and cutting on average 4.7kg.

The 1268 spring 2015 drop, April shorn, lambs were weaned in November and measured for the wool traits of micron, yield, staple strength, length and fibre curvature. Visual classing included colour, dust, character and wool structure. Data was also collected on fleece rot and body wrinkle.

Liveweights were taken in November, and post weaning in January and April. Eye muscle and fat depth data is yet to be collected. Elders Balmoral Sire Evaluation Group chairman Tom Silcock said the project aimed to comprehensively explore lifetime relationships between wool production, carcass performance and fertility.

“For modern Merino selection systems to be successful we need to understand and accommodate the lifetime relationships between all these production elements.’’ Chad Taylor agreed, saying a balanced breeding program taking in positive fat, eye muscle depth, good growth and fleece weight was the key to profitability.

Mr Taylor said fat cover was the genetic reserve of energy used by sheep to survive challenges, including lambing, worm burden, poor nutrition and harsh climatic conditions. “If we continue to select for fleeceweight without paying attention to what is happening to the fat, the animal will fall apart when conditions are tough,’’ Mr Taylor said.

He said carcass traits could be used to lift fertility, lamb survival, lamb growth rates, the number of lambs sold and the value of surplus ewes. Mumblebone -130850 has Australian Sheep Breeding Values of +4.4kg for weaning weight, +7.2kg for post weaning weight, +9.9kg for yearling weight, -2.6 for yearling fibre diameter coefficient of variation, +4.8 yearling staple strength, -1.9 breech wrinkle, -0.6 breech coverage and -0.3 for dag score. “This is a sire which is not only structurally correct but also measures and breeds well,’’ Mr Taylor said.