Merino cross-flock gains

27 Aug, 2003 10:00 PM

WA breeders in the Merino Validation Project (MVP) must increase cross-flock selection to match eastern states genetic gains, according to Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) project officer Richard Apps.

The MVP aims to improve the processing quality and quantity of lamb and mutton from merinos, while maintaining or improving wool quality and quantity.

Mr Apps recently addressed WA members of the Australian Merino Society (AMS), which contributes eight of the state's 42 MVP flocks.

He said WA AMS members had outperformed other WA breeders in MVP outcomes, due to their collaborative nature and commitment to progeny testing.

But two AMS flocks in other states, one in South Australia, the other in NSW, were achieving superior results with cross-flock selection.

They used Estimated Breeding Values to introduce breeding genes that improved both meat and wool results.

Both flocks, which Mr Apps did not identify, showed dramatic improvement after shifting from within-flock analysis.

In the NSW flock, as meat yields rose, wool dropped below 21 micron after hovering near 23 for 10 years.

"The challenge I have put to WA flocks is here are guys using EBVs and getting the right results, what are you going to do about it?" Mr Apps said.

Genetic variation in MVP flocks is large, at 20kg for yearling weight, 8.5 micron for hogget fibre diameter and 67pc for the number of lambs weaned.

Mr Apps said breeders must take advantage of the rise in lamb demand.

Lamb exports were now worth more than $1 billion a year and demand outstripped supply.

Since 1991, the number of specialist wool producers that sold lambs to slaughter had risen from 30 to 47pc.

He said MLA was involved in merinos because over $1.13 billion in meat value came from merino genes and competition was not between wool and meat but between sheep and other enterprises.

WA will figure highly in MVP results as its number of flocks is disproportionate in the national total of 150. (I think he means eastern Australia) check check


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