Breeding for meat

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Consumers and processors desire tender, nutritious and high yielding lambs. Producers can use genetics to help deliver these qualities.

Rams can be chosen to suit any ewes and the target market for their lambs by using Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs); either through LAMBPLAN for meat breeds or MERINOSELECT for Merinos.

The currently well-used measurements of live weight, loin eye muscle depth and GR fat depth allow producers to effectively target the right carcase weight with the most appropriate fat score.

Exciting new work being developed between the Sheep CRC Meat Program and MLA has shown that a variety of new traits (still under development) are moderately to highly heritable. These include Lean Meat Yield (LMY), Dressing Percentage (DR%), Intramuscular Fat (IMF) and Shear Force (SF5), also known as tenderness.

Which ASBVs should be used?
When selecting to improve growth rates, use post weaning weight (PWT) ASBV. To select for increased muscle, use the post weaning eye muscle depth (PEMD) ASBV. These traits must be balanced and producers should aim for animals with higher growth, and a PEMD ASBV between 0.0 mm and 3.0 mm.

Fat is also an important component and the level chosen will depend mostly on the combination of breeds being used and the production system that is being targeted. When using a maternal or terminal sire over Merinos, choose a post weaning fat (PFAT) ASBV that is between -0.5 mm and 0.5 mm. Terminal sires used over 1st cross ewes can be selected between -1.0 mm and 0.0 mm.

To avoid lambing difficulties, look for birth weight (BWT) ASBVs that are between 0.1 kg and 0.3 kg. High birth weight is one of the key factors leading to dystocia (lambing difficulties). Very low birth weights should also be avoided as this can lead to light lambs that have little tolerance for cold weather.

Choose from the tabs below to find more detailed information.

Products & Training Resources Reports, Articles and Presentations News Releases Websites

Products & Training Resources

ASBV Case Studies

Several case studies are available on the use and benefits of ASBVs - download the individual case studies below.

Australian Sheep Breeding Values - A guide for ram buyers

This guide is provided to help you understand the complexities of breeding profitable yet functional sheep that are right for your business.

Reports, Articles and Presentations

Sheep CRC Genomics Breakfast Workshop - LambEx 2012

During LambEx 2012 the Sheep CRC hosted a genomics breakfast workshop - download the papers from the workshop below.

SNP Chip - revolutionising genetics

This article appears courtesy of Meat & Livestock Australia (

News Releases

Big data delivers clearer growth picture for lambs
New research based on high-quality and large-scale data from the sheep industry’s Information Nucleus program will help breeders manage expectations about lamb growth rates, particularly for twins and triplets. Click Here To Read Full Article »
Genomic testing maps out path for leading breeders
Genomic testing has dramatically changed ram selection on Dale Price’s Glencoe farm, identifying superior stock for improving his flock, as well as exposing traits in rams that he would otherwise have selected that would have set back the rate of genetic gain. Click Here To Read Full Article »
CRC extension ensures bright future for sheep industry
Sheep producers can look to the future with confidence with news that the industry’s Cooperative Research Centre has secured funding for a further five years. The Commonwealth Department of Industry has today announced that the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) has been successful in its extension application, with $15.5 million to be provided to support its activities from 2014 through... Click Here To Read Full Article »
Claim the date – Sheep CRC ‘Concept to Impact’ Final Conference
Sheep producers and industry participants should pencil 9 July 2014 into their diaries, when the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) will take them on an R&D journey from ‘Concept to Impact’. Click Here To Read Full Article »
Ram teams are superior for ASBVs accuracy
Buying teams of rams that share similar Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) has helped achieve breeding objectives faster and deliver a more productive flock for WA producer, Rob Egerton-Warburton. Click Here To Read Full Article »
JIVET & DNA supercharge sheep breeding at Leahcim
Andrew Michael has taken sheep breeding beyond the cutting edge and into new territory, with a new program that is super-charging the speed of genetic gain in his flock. Known as JIVET – juvenile in vitro embryo transfer – the program has already delivered stud lambs years in advance of those from his conventionally joined flock, thanks to a combination of old-school visual appraisal and traditional measurement... Click Here To Read Full Article »
DNA tests take the guesswork out of breeding easy-care sheep
DNA testing has taken the guesswork out of breeding for fast-tracked profitability on Andrew Heinrich’s Kangaroo Island farm - and he is just in the experimental stage of using the cutting-edge technology. Click Here To Read Full Article »
Genomic revolution to hit turbo drive in Sheep CRC extension bid
Use of full genome sequencing to turbo charge the rate of genetic gain in the national sheep flock is a core objective of a new research agenda proposed by the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC). Click Here To Read Full Article »
Animal wellbeing research to drive future sheep productivity
Improving animal health and well-being, and positioning the sheep industry to meet changing consumer demands relating to animal welfare, will form a key plank of a new research agenda proposed by the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC). Click Here To Read Full Article »
Paying forward the sheep industry’s investment in education
Sam Clark has been the beneficiary of the sheep industry’s investment in post-graduate education, and is now paying the dividends forward to a new generation of genetic researchers and industry advisers. Click Here To Read Full Article »

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