LAST year 27 per cent of rams sold under the hammer in WA had Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs).
The percentage of WA Merino studs selling rams under the hammer with ASBVs was similar at 26pc.
But despite the seemingly low numbers, there's no denying the use of ASBVs as a tool to estimate a sheep's true breeding value (based on pedigree and performance recorded information) is on the rise.
Commercial sheep producers are gradually taking ASBVs into consideration when selecting young sires for purchase during the upcoming ram sale season.
With this in mind, Elders WA stud stock manager Tim Spicer took the opportunity to organise an in-house ASBV training day for more than 20 Elders staff at BreedersBEST Genetics stud principal and veterinarian Craig Heggaton's Koojan property, Kojonup.
Mr Heggaton ran last Friday's course, covering everything from the basics of reading ASBVs via MerinoSelect and LambPlan, understanding how traits are calculated and recognising the major production areas (growth, carcase, reproduction, wool and health) to advanced genetics and breed selection.
"In the next 10 years predictive values will be running the industry," Mr Heggaton said.
"But despite that, we must focus on the fact that sheep have to be structurally correct first and foremost."
Elders stud stock representative Nathan King echoed Mr Heggaton's message, saying ASBVs need to be applied alongside a very thorough visual assessment before determining a ram's worth.
"ASBVs are a tool to measure the things we can't see," Mr King said.
"There's definitely a percentage of producers that believe using ASBVs is the way they're going to improve the productivity of their flock.
"We only need to look at the genetic gains being made in the cattle industry - there aren't many bulls sold without Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) these days.
"And the cattle industry is at a point where it relies on EBVs quite heavily."
Mr King said for those commercial farmers looking to stick their toe into the proverbial ASBV pool this ram selling season, eye muscle and growth values for terminal breeds; fertility, the number of lambs weaned and fat for maternal breeds and wool figures including micron and wool weights, were a good place to start.
"Of course that all depends which direction the farmer is looking to take their sheep operation in and which traits they want to chase," he said.
Mr Spicer said it was an extremely successful day which provided the opportunity for junior and senior staff to get together in an on-property environment for some hands-on learning about ASBVs.
"The relevance of ASBVs has certainly grown and is continuing to grow within the industry," he said.
"Today gave our stock agents the chance to further their knowledge so that they can pass it on to our commercial clients."