While Merino sheep have been the back upon which the wool industry was built, there is growing appreciation for their contribution to the Australian sheepmeat industry.
A MerinoLink conference held on March 4 at the Riverina Institute of TAFE in Wagga Wagga has provided Merino sheep producers with valuable insights into the combined wool and meat benefits of the breed, including new opportunities to supply high quality Merino and yearling lamb to consumers.
The theme of the conference was ‘Improving the profitability of your Merino enterprise’ and included a presentation from Sheep CRC Meat Program Leader and Murdoch University (WA) Professor David Pethick, who said that with careful management, Merino and yearling lamb could deliver a high quality food product.
"Sheepmeat eating quality is not hugely affected by breed," Prof. Pethick said. "The eating quality of Merino lambs can be comparable to other breeds, but they do require more stringent pre-slaughter management than the other breeds in Australia.
"Good meat colour can be achieved from Merinos providing they have adequate nutrition and minimal stress prior to slaughter."
Prof. Pethick provided an overview of Merino lamb and yearling sheepmeat eating qualities and how Merino breeders can tap into this by focussing on genetic advancement.
"The advent of DNA testing and Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) has seen vast improvements to the growth, muscling and intramuscular fat (IMF) breeding objectives of producers," he said.
"Better breeding objectives result in better genetics and better quality meat for the consumer."
MerinoLink promotes the profitability of the Merino breed through demonstrating and communicating the breed’s genetic diversity and the management practices available to maximise this advantage.
The conference aimed to bridge knowledge gaps for local Riverina Merino producers, and demonstrated how to maximise the profit of their flock.
The conference also included presentations on Merino Bloodline Performance; Sheep Management & Animal Health; and Electronic identification – Does it make you more money?
Wednesday’s conference was followed by the Peter Westblade Scholarship Dinner, with the 2015 Peter Westblade Memorial Merino Challenge shearing, being held on Thursday and Friday, March 5 and 6.
More information about sheepmeat eating quality is available at www.sheepcrc.org.au
The CRC for Sheep Industry Innovation is co-funded under the Commonwealth Government’s Cooperative Research Centres Program.
Media contact: Michael Thomson on 07 4927 0805 / 0408 819 666