Merino tops sheep profit test

26 Feb, 2010 10:10 AM
DAFWA sheep consultant Tanya Kilminster addresses delegates at the cleanskin symposium in Adelaide.
DAFWA sheep consultant Tanya Kilminster addresses delegates at the cleanskin symposium in Adelaide.

WATCH out Merino knockers: Western Australian researchers have identified that run under optimal Australian Lifetime wool conditions the Merino ewe storms ahead in a gross margin per breed comparison after finding “surprising” evidence that over conditioned cleanskin sheep breeds impaired reproduction capability.

The findings from a three year Western Australian Department of Agriculture study at Merredin suggest a Merino ewe maintained at condition score 2.7 could achieve a $130 gross margin per hectare per year, compared to Dorper at $90, Damara at $49 and Wiltshire $35.

Searching for a means to test ewe productivity of new cleanskin sheep breeds, the researchers found that weaning percentage of cleanskin breeds declined as joining weight increased, the opposite of the Merino.

In the trial that involved 100 seven to eight month old ewes from each of the four breeds run in the same mob and joined annually for three years, the Wiltshire weaning percentage struggled in the second year of the trial when the ewe increased its weight from 61.6 kilograms to 70.2kg, when weaning percentage fell from 94 to 77 per cent.

Similarly the Doper’s weaning percentage at the same age dropped by 17pc to 105pc when joining weight increased from 69.5kg to 77.1kg.

However DAFWA sheep consultant Tanya Kilminster, who led the new research, said the results could not be taken at face value as the true benefit of cleanskin sheep breeds was their accelerated mating, high 120 plus lambing percentages and ability to have three lambings in two years.

“The take home message is don’t run cleanskin sheep like Merinos,” Ms Kilminster said.

“With cleanskin sheep breeds it is all about producing lambs – and they are highly productive for less work – but there is work to do.”

Ms Kilminster said the concept that cleanskin sheep can run on “sticks and stones” was incorrect and her trial proved that nutrition was a key element in the productivity of the breed.

“The bottom line for cleanskin breeds, particularly Damara, is to have them continually lactating or pregnant,” she said.

Ms Kilminster said further research into nutrition requirements of cleanskin sheep breeds was urgently needed.

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27/02/2010 2:39:34 PM, on Farm Weekly

It seems to me that what this trial shows, is that the future lies in breeding composites. AFAIK, the Dorper was developed to produce small lambs in the South African karoo, so I am unaware of any selection for high fertility. At the same time, meat breeds such as Poll Dorsets, White Suffolks, Texels etc. will commonly produce very high lambing rates. Combine the hardiness and non shearing qualities of the Dorper with the fertility and fast growth of traditional meat breeds and you'll land up with lots of hybrid vigour as well as the best qualities of all those breeds! When it comes to meat production, the merino is yesterday's girl.
Martin Oppenheimer
28/02/2010 3:21:31 PM, on Farm Weekly

Great to see some hard numbers to promote the dual income streams of the Merino; high quality wool & meat. For most Merino breeders selection in the past has been focused mainly on wool. Now that has changed to also include carcase & growth etc, the potential for improved meat production in the Merino as a pure bred or prime lamb mother is very exciting.
1/03/2010 5:05:33 AM, on Farm Weekly

'run under optimal Australian Lifetime wool conditions' 'a Merino ewe maintained at condition score 2.7 could achieve' And these roaming mobs of ewes maintaining 2.7 condition year in year out would be where? Stats bending - at least we are learning something from the environmentalist movement.
1/03/2010 6:36:42 AM, on Farm Weekly

Eh ? On this web site first it was the shedding breeds then mohair now merinos. Its getting to be like listening to tv realestate guys saying it never been a better time to buy regardless of prices rising or falling.
hungry sheep
1/03/2010 7:26:28 AM, on Farm Weekly

No doubt that the SR Merino flock with a % joined to terminal sires is the most profitable sheep production enterprise in most areas, however it should be noted that the methodology of this trial was total rubbish. Have a look at it online and see for yourselves...ewe lambs joined at 7 months at 23kg LW???? a bit like comparing bananas with turkeys. I hope the Merino sector doesn't need to compare itself in this way to be made to look good!
1/03/2010 8:24:16 AM, on Farm Weekly

Nor should you ever run sheep in an aquarium, plough a two tonne crop in or plant rice in a desert. But thats just common sence isn't it. :)
1/03/2010 9:23:06 AM, on Farm Weekly

This was a very expensive trial to demonstrate the profitability of some Merino sheep in one environment maintained under ideal conditions. It proved little else except the long known fact that reproductive performance decreases with over-conditioning & clean skin sheep breeds don't require the same nutritional conditions that Merinos do. The premise for this trial was floored from the outset.
1/03/2010 2:50:13 PM, on Farm Weekly

The profitibility of the Merino in the trial was mainly from the sale of the Dorper-cross lamb. The shedding breeds were run like a Merino flock. Commercial shedding breed growers don't run their flocks like the Merino farmers. The main finding is to not run shedding breeds like a Merino flock.
1/03/2010 6:50:14 PM, on Farm Weekly

This trial shows just how good the Merinos are, they can be a dual purpose sheep and bring in a better profit then the cleanskin sheep breeds. Yes they can't be run the same as the cleanskin sheep breds, however when you do these trials to compare them they must be run under the same conditions.
2/03/2010 7:21:33 AM, on Farm Weekly

A disappointing piece of work from a quality point of view. Misleading with poor methodology. I spoke with Tanya after the conference who said the purpose of the study was not to compare breeds. My response: "in that case, why were the breeds named?".
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