Breeding for Wool

Genetics offers wool producers the opportunity to make permanent improvements relatively easily in a range of important wool traits.

Sires can be chosen for measured traits using Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) through MERINOSELECT from Sheep Genetics. Visual assessment for confirmation and wool style is still important!!

The already well-used measurements of fibre diameter and fleece weight can be combined with traits such as staple length and staple strength, as well as traits to improve the Merino’s resistance to worms and flystrike.

If you have only recently starting to use ASBVs to aid your selection of rams, use just one or two ASBVs for the traits most important to your breeding program while you become familiar with their use.

Also, use one of the Indexes as a guide to overall performance of a ram—ask your stud breeder which index supplied is most relevant to your production system.

The ASBV values relate to the raw values for a trait—if you want to improve the trait by making it larger, e.g. bigger weights, then a bigger ASBV value is better. If you want the trait to improve by making it smaller, e.g. lower worm egg counts, lower fibre diameter, fewer wrinkles, then you want a lower, more negative ASBV value for that trait. The actual values are less important that the differences between them for each ram.

Wool producers should also consider the value of adding meat traits into their selection. As cull lambs are bringing a significant injection of income to the wool operation, rapid growth and good eye muscle depth are important traits. These can be selected by choosing a stud that offers weight and eye muscle ASBVs. For most Merino enterprises, the yearling weight (YWT) ASBV and yearling eye muscel depth (YEMD) ASBV are ideal traits to use. For enterprises with larger framed-Merinos, able to finish surplus sheep at 7–10 months of age, consider using the post weaning weight and eye muscle ASBVs.

To avoid increasing the adult ewe size (that would decrease the number of ewes that can be carried) choose high post weaning weight (PWT) or YWT ASBVs, but moderate adult weight (AWT) ASBVs.

Another important trait to consider for Merinos is fat. The ability of a ewe to store fat to draw on in tougher times adds to her resilience and reproductive performance. When selecting rams, look for a higher yearling fat (YFAT) ASBV. is a simple way to rank rams for your breeding objective. It uses the power of ASBVs in it's calculations.


Practical Wisdom Notes / Fact Sheets

Measuring and managing wool quality

New Opportunities in Genetics and Genomics

PW4.1-01 Genomics and DNA testing: new tools for ram breeders to accelerate genetic gain

Using ASBVs

Products & Training Resources

ASBV Pocket Guide

Australian Sheep Breeding Values - A guide for ram buyers

Marketing your sheep with genetic data

Reports, Articles and Presentations

Getting Started with Sheep Genetics

Sheep CRC Genomics Breakfast Workshop - LambEx 2012

Sheep CRC Wool Conference 2012

News Releases

Commercial Merino producers - opportunity for DNA pilot project
Commercial Merino producers have the opportunity to be at the cutting edge of DNA research by participating in a pilot trial of the new Flock Profiling Test from the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC). The Sheep CRC will provide support for up to 100 Merino producers to define the genetic merit of their flocks. The profiling test involves randomly sampling 20 young ewes for DNA testing. Click Here To Read Full Article »
Understanding why farmers are pressing the app buttons
Despite the proliferation of new technology in agriculture, very little is known about the effectiveness of these new tools in improving primary productivity and adoption of new practices. A new research project from the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) will evaluate the use of smartphone apps in the industry and producer attitudes towards these tools, in order to ensure future tools and... Click Here To Read Full Article »
Ram team records unlock the secrets to better breeding
Keeping accurate records of his ram teams has allowed South Gippsland second-cross lamb producer Paul O’Sullivan to benchmark his business against industry averages and to refine his genetic selections to take flock productivity to the next level. Mr O’Sullivan was impressed by the benchmarking capabilities of the new RamSelect Plus app when it was launched at LambEx by the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry... Click Here To Read Full Article »
Sheep breeders rush to RamSelect Plus
Sheep breeders are embracing RamSelect Plus in droves, with close to 4000 rams from 60 different studs listed on the site since the start of July. And there are already over twice the number of registered users than there were at the end of the 2015 ram-selling season. Sheep CRC chief executive James Rowe said the early-season figures were a strong endorsement of the need for easy-to-use applications that provide personalised... Click Here To Read Full Article »
UNE app development team leads the way for the sheep industry
The team behind the popular web-based app RamSelect Plus is already turning its attention to finding new solutions to the data challenges facing the sheep industry. The next project on the cards for the University of New England (UNE) Agile App team is to develop an early intervention sheep management app for the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) so that producers can ensure all animals in... Click Here To Read Full Article »
RamSelect Plus adds new precision to genetic selection
Producers at this week’s LambEx event have early access to RamSelect Plus, the latest version of the popular sheep genetic selection app. Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) CEO James Rowe said RamSelect Plus features more precise genetic selection tools, as well as new benchmarking and ram team management tools. Click Here To Read Full Article »
DNA Flock Profiling delivers sheep breeding insights at Europambela
New England Merino breeder Tony Overton has a much clearer picture of the genetic make-up of his superfine Merino flock and the areas which need attention following trials of a new application for the 15k DNA test designed specifically for commercial producers. Mr Overton, who manages 9000 ewes at ‘Europambela’ in the Walcha district, was a participant in early field trials of the DNA Flock Profiler, being developed by... Click Here To Read Full Article »
Got ram team records? Sheep CRC needs you!
Sheep breeders with comprehensive records of their ram teams are being sought by the Sheep CRC as it enters the final stages of development of the latest RamSelect app. The next version of RamSelect will feature enhanced ram searching capabilities to align with estimates of the current genetic merit of a commercial ewe flock, either based on records of the rams used during the previous 10 years, or using data obtained through... Click Here To Read Full Article »
Sheep DNA tests now quicker and easier
DNA testing of sheep is now quicker and easier than ever, following moves by the Sheep CRC to simplify the process for breeders. From July 1 producers will be able to purchase a stock of blood cards to keep on hand on their properties, allowing them to take blood samples at their convenience, such as at lamb marking, and only submit those they are most interested in for analysis at a later date when they consider their... Click Here To Read Full Article »
Major upgrade on the way for
Commercial sheep breeders could soon have access to a new DNA test that profiles the average genetic merit of their flock. This new information will increase the precision with which rams can be selected to have the greatest impact on flock performance. The DNA test results will feature in an upgraded RamSelect app, which will also allow breeders to store details of flock rams and their genetic merit in order to make better... Click Here To Read Full Article »
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