Selection of Superior Genetics

Type: PDF
Knowledge level: Advanced

Farm Table says:

There are enormous differences between Merino bloodlines in their profitability per hectare. Do you know how your bloodline is performing?


Running a productive bloodline of Merino sheep is critical for long-term flock profitability, therefore many producers are at a critical decision point when it comes to the future direction of their flock.

This report highlights the lag effect that bloodline differences can have on flock profitability and provides some data which will help producers make their decisions.

In setting goals, keep in mind that the current micron-price differentials are unusual, in the context of long-term trends.

The key sections are:

Section 1

Effect on profit:

  • once you have taken on board the information and are contemplating changes, always be sure to measure the effect of any change
  • this section presents information on bloodline differences and quantifies the effect of these differences on profitability
  • to analyse the effects of bloodline on profitability, we assume each bloodline is run under commercial conditions with the appropriate income and all the expenses required to run a flock
  • always be sure to measure the effect of any change. Small differences can have large effects on your profitability and those small differences are often very difficult to detect by visual assessment
  • the extra income, as a result of a more productive bloodline, comes at no cost assuming the same ram price and therefore the extra income is all profit

Section 2

Long and short-term wool prices:

  • it takes at least 10 years for a flock to change bloodlines by just buying rams, the decision should not be based on short-term price trends
  • the only difficulty with using long-term trends, is that the relativity between price grades may change over time, and therefore the historical difference will not always be a good pointer to the extent of future differences
  • the most profitable bloodlines have average or above average fleece weights and below average fibre diameter.

Section 3

Which bloodline?

  • producers will often limit the bloodlines they will consider running in a district, because it is ‘fine wool country’ or ‘bread and butter wool’ country
  • all the available evidence indicates that sheep which have above average profitability, if taken to another district, will still have above average profitability
  • if your objective is to maximise flock profitability, you should be selecting bloodlines from within the top 20 per cent
  • in most cases, this will not have a large effect on the accuracy of the rankings because the rate of progress in studs is generally one per cent per annum or less

Section 4

Selection methods

  • work done in South Australia in the Merino Demonstration Flock, shows that selection methods at the ram breeding level can have a large effect on fleece values
  • the managers of these flocks have been selecting and breeding using a variety of methods with the aim of improving the profitability of typical South Australian-type Merinos remember that the fibre/meat flock has a similar fleece value to the professional classer, but it has only been recently introduced to the Demonstration Flocks
  • the fibre/meat flock has a similar fleece value to the professional classer, but it has only been recently introduced to the Demonstration Flocks

Section 5

Case Study – Genetics

  • as owners of a 3,000 sheep flock, which is a minor component of our farm business compared to the 2,800 hectares of crop, we were reviewing the role of the flock, particularly its profitability, or more specifically, the lack of it
  • the options were to improve the performance of the flock, or to get out of sheep and maximise the area of crop, then take on agistment when sheep are necessary for stubble or lucerne grazing
  • we assessed the data from a number of wether trials based on a range of bloodlines to try to overcome some of those problems, and fortunately the stud we buy rams from was includedthere were a couple of options – sell our flock and start again by buying ewes in or change rams over now to a better source and let the benefits filter through to the flock over time.

In conclusion, the guide states that while some may disagree just when the medium and broad wool prices are coming good, we are in it for the long-haul and it is definitely the way to go. We can reduce the fiber diameter without losing fleece weight, so we can’t possibly be worse-off and by the time we see substantial change in our flock, the wool market will have settled down.

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