MERINOS that do not need to be surgically mulesed have existed for more than five years in WA and stud breeders and commercial growers are already snapping up their genetics.
For more than two decades, Kojonup woolgrower Robert O¹Halloran has worked quietly behind the scenes with Merino genetics that may settle the controversial surgical mulesing debate forever.
The idea of breeding Merinos with bare breeches has hit head-lines in the past 12 months as scientists across Australia race for a mulesing alternative before the 2010 deadline to ban surgical mulesing.
But breeding Merinos with the genes that trigger wool-free skin around the breech was often considered the least-likely alter-native to be immediately adopted by woolgrowers.
Many in the industry acknow-ledged the principles of bare breech breeding were sound but believed the genetic research involved would extend well beyond the 2010 deadline.
The idea of breeding easy-care Merinos dates back to the early 1970s.
In Mr O¹Halloran¹s case, it also coincided with the emer-gence of the Australian Merino Society (AMS).
The AMS principles centred on minimising flock husbandry and maintenance without com-promising the attributes of the Merino.
In the 1980s Mr O¹Halloran also donated ewes to the Boyup Brook-based Rylington Merino grower-owned flock as part of a trial into breeding Merinos for worm resistance.
Two decades later and after a successful breeding program in the Rylington Merino flock, Mr O¹Halloran is using those genetics in his own enterprise.
In 2003, Mr O¹Halloran purchased a Rylington bloodline ram bred for worm resistance and easy-care that also exhibited bare breech traits.
The first easy-care progeny were born on the O¹Halloran¹s property in 2005.
³They¹re not yet showing a full bare breech but they are showing plainer body types and increased growth rates,² Mr O¹Halloran said.
He expected the progeny to show less wool on their points and breech with age.