THE failure of investment in the Information Nucleus Flock (INF) and MerinoSelect to deliver a return appears to be a case of the cart before the horse - or is it?
In short, the Merino breed simply hasn't had enough growers supporting MerinoSelect for the potential gains identified by research to effectively flow through to industry.
There has also been a lack of indication by way of price signals from commercial ram buyers that they have confidence in the tool to deliver value.
On face value, the Merino breed's potential silver bullet for increasing genetic gains (ie. increased accuracy of MerinoSelect breeding values, including the incorporation of genomics) to a level more akin to prime lambs, or perhaps even the poultry industry, has missed the mark.
The challenge of genetic gain is more complex for Merinos than other livestock sectors because of the many traits the modern producer needs to include in their selection.
Even if MerinoSelect adoption had been wider reaching, gains would still have been relatively slow because of the time it takes to overcome the many antagonistic effects of Merino production, so Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) could still have found itself in the same position.
Yet, it is the genetic tools provided by MerinoSelect that provide Merino producers with their best chance of successfully harnessing those hard-to-measure antagonistic traits to greater productivity.
AWI has to demonstrate a return on investment and the slow nature of Merino genetic improvement just isn't a good fit for an economy where results are needed tomorrow to justify a project's existence.
The situation has also not been helped by the long run of low wool prices, which has diverted potential premiums to better prime lamb sires.
But now with the lift in wool prices, we might start to see a premium emerge for higher performing Merino rams.
However, assuming MerinoSelect can operate sustainably without grower levy input, then perhaps it's time to cut it loose and let good old "market forces" play their role.
But here lies a paradox for AWI: if MerinoSelect can be self-supporting after a decade, despite engaging only a fraction of the industry, what sort of self-supporting gene-based management platforms might be built in the coming decade with AWI support?