Breeding a better Merino ewe in the future

31 Jul, 2009 02:00 AM
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RESULTS of new research that is helping to design a Merino ewe for the future - one that is more robust and has better maternal ability - have been presented at the recent Sheep Updates.

Mark Ferguson from the Agriculture and Food Department (DAFWA) spoke about the challenges within the Australian sheep industry and how to get the best profitability in the future.

Mr Ferguson said the current research suggests that Merino breeders should focus on breeding for a balance between muscling and growth breeding values to maximise improvements in the number of lambs born.

"The industry is under pressure from a changingand more variable climate, increased consumer demand for safe and welfare friendly products and the need to run more sheep per person and therefore handle them less often," Mr Ferguson said.

With more focus on meat in Merinos, producers are being forced to re-think their sheep enterprises and the type of sheep they are running.

"We need Merinos that have the ability to produce more lambs with better survival, rapid lamb growth, that are easy to care for, have carcase appeal and good quality wool," Mr Ferguson said.

"We don't want to lose the fantastic wool, but we need to improve the Merino in other ways."

Experiments were conducted on one and a half year old Merino ewes to investigate the impacts of different selection strategies on their reproductive ability.

"These experiments were designed to investigate the independent effects of differences in ewe growth, muscling, fatness and fleece weight genotype on their reproductive capacity and ewe genotype was determined based on their Australian sheep breeding values (ASBVs) for the traits of interest," Mr Ferguson said.

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