A DOZEN sheep producers came together at Moora last week for the last of eight Sheep Genetics Regional Forums 2018 held across the country.
The forum was co-ordinated by Sheep Genetics and delivered through LambPlan and MerinoSelect, in an effort to educate newcomers to genetic recording and assist those already involved in the program to improve their data collection, input and evaluation.
Attendees came from as far as Northam, Badgingarra, Coorow and Moora, and represented a wide range of breeds including Merinos, Dohne, Dorper, Multi-Purpose Merinos, Suffolk and Poll Dorset.
Presentations were given by LambPlan development officer Clara Bradford and MerinoSelect (MS) development officer Peta Bradley, both based out of Armidale, New South Wales.
There was a good mix of presentation, discussion and interaction, with a focus on helping stud breeders achieve their business targets.
Ms Bradford highlighted that Australia was the world leader in sheep genetics and with everyone improving the quality of their Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) recording and evaluations, it could continue to be so.
She said the Meat and Live- stock Australia funded Sheep Genetics program would feature new branding in the future, something to watch out for.
Topics on the day included breeding objectives and what to measure, getting accuracy in selection, and utilisation of breeding values and other tools.
Ms Bradley said reproduction was a challenging area and it was an important trait to get right - although there had been problems with inaccurate ‘scanners affecting the integrity of the information’.
She hoped that as technology improved those issues would be resolved.
Ms Bradley said data analysis from 2005 - 2016 showed that “more Merinos were being sold that have breeding values”.
“MerinoSelect flocks were bigger and sell more lambs,” Ms Bradley said.
Information showed that the number of MS rams were selling at a higher rate than the total Australian flock, and semen doses per flock were on the increase, compared to non MS flocks.
It was important that once working within the ASBV system that breeders understood what is needed to improve the genetics of their flock before viewing or buying in stock in order to make positive progress towards their business target.
The RamSelect program was highlighted as a way to use DNA to improve genetics.
Ms Bradford said 20 DNA samples from a ewe flock would cost about $700 but that would give breeders a good understanding of their flock profile and be a basis to work from.
They discussed the importance of not being selective when recording lamb weaning weights – as this could lower the flock profile and not give an accurate measurement for improving.
It was also stressed that breeders should value the dam pedigree as much as the ram because both contributed to the lambs DNA.
There was also a reminder that while improving the genetics of the flock though selection was important, the environment and treatment of the sheep also contributed to their growth and development.
“Once you pull an animal out of the main group don’t compare it with the main group again, because of the different environment and treatments given,” Ms Bradford said.
During the final session attendees were handed their flocks Ramping Up Report and were able to go through it and ask questions.
One attendee said he was just starting on the ASBV program, and although he had run a stud for many years, the forum was helpful in answering questions and explaining the system.
He hoped that with accurate data his stud could provide a better service to his clients and increase the value of his flock.