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

PW2.1 Measuring and managing wool quality

In this series:

  1. Knitted wool fabrics can have soft handle but still prickle
  2. ‘Wool Comfort Factor’ does not predict garment comfort
  3. Wools of 18 microns and finer provide next-to-skin comfort
  4. Staple strength—use genetics to make real progress
  5. Implications of wool measurement systems for producers

  6. Implications of wool measurement systems for retailers

PW4.1 New Opportunities in Genetics and Genomics

In this series:

  1. Genomics and DNA testing: new tools for ram breeders to accelerate genetic gain
  2. Breeding towards a poll flock with the Sheep CRC Poll test

  3. Sheep CRC genomic test for Merinos —what are the benefits?

  4. Sheep CRC genomic test for maternal breeds —what are the benefits?

  5. Sheep CRC genomic test for terminal breeds —what are the benefits?

  6. Using Australian Sheep Breeding Values

  7. Fat and eye muscle depth in Merino breeding programs

  8. Benefits of Reproductive Technologies in  Closed Nucleus Sheep Breeding

  9. Merinotech: Strategies to achieve a 100% PP nucleus

  10.  Using selection decisions to improve ASBVs

  11. Genomic testing ram lambs helps increase rates of index genetic gain by 50% at Centre Plus

  12. Genomic testing and artificial insemination helps increase LEQ index gains138% faster than industry average – Melton Vale Poll Dorsets

Products & Training Resources

ASBV Pocket Guide

ASBVs - A guide for ram buyers

Marketing your sheep with genetic data

Sheep DNA Testing Information

Reports, Articles and Presentations

Getting Started with Sheep Genetics

Sheep CRC Genomics Breakfast Workshop - LambEx 2012

Sheep CRC Wool Conference 2012

News Releases

RamSelect drives demand at Ella Matta ram sale
The genetic selection app RamSelect was a key plank of the promotional platform for the Ella Matta White Suffolk and Merino stud which recorded its best-ever sale results late last year. The Kangaroo Island stud recorded its highest grossing sale, its highest ever top-priced ram at $16,000, and an improved overall average of $1459 / ram, despite increasing its sale offering by more than 10% to 200 White Suffolks, 40 Poll... Click Here To Read Full Article »
MERINOSELECT now mainstream practice and growing fast
Use of the objective genetic assessment tool, Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs), has grown so rapidly in the Merino industry in the last five years that close to 50% of all Merino rams are now sold by studs that are members of MERINOSELECT. Recent analysis by the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) reveals that studs in MERINOSELECT now provide around half of the Merino rams used by... Click Here To Read Full Article »
DNA Flock Profile test takes gut feel out of farming
DNA testing has taken the guesswork out of breeding for Victorian sheep mixed farmer Todd Martin, who now has a clear picture of how his flock compares to the rest of the industry and the decisions he needs to make to improve its performance. Click Here To Read Full Article »
DNA Flock Profile cements the foundations for new flock
Developing a flock with the right mix of genetics can take generations to perfect, but DNA testing has put Geelong sheep and wool producer Jack Briscoe on the fast track to success. Mr Briscoe is only a year into breeding his own Merino flock after branching out from his sheep contracting business by cobbling together a mixture of 800 home-bred and yard-bought ewes as his breeding base. Click Here To Read Full Article »
RamSelect keeps track of flock performance at Parkes
The RamSelect app is not only assisting with better genetic decisions for the Dunn family of Parkes, NSW, but also assisting with their inventory management and industry benchmarking activities. The Dunn family, trading as Reedy Creek Partners, operates a mixed farming enterprise between Manildra and Parkes, and has been using the app since it was first launched in 2015 to assist with their ram selections. Click Here To Read Full Article »
Faster sheep DNA testing with new Australian GeneSeek lab
Sheep breeders using DNA testing to improve their genetic selections can look forward to faster turnaround times for test results thanks to Neogen Corporation’s decision to establish a genomic testing laboratory within Australia. GeneSeek Australasia, a wholly owned subsidiary of United States-based parent company Neogen, has acquired the assets of the Animal Genetics Laboratory (AGL), based at the Gatton campus of the... Click Here To Read Full Article »
Dramatic increase in early season searches on RamSelect
Inquiry for rams through RamSelect has never been stronger with a dramatic increase in the number of buyers searching the site so far this season compared to last year. More than 1129 ram searches were conducted on RamSelect during July, compared to just 154 at the same time last year. Click Here To Read Full Article »
DNA testing to drive new era of ewe competitions
The traditional ewe competition is set to enter the innovation era with the inclusion of DNA Flock Profile tests as part of next year’s Doug Bicket Memorial Ewe trial in Parkes, NSW. The Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) will provide DNA profiling for all flocks entering the 2018 competition, currently valued at $800 plus GST per flock, as a means of supporting improved genetic selection... Click Here To Read Full Article »
The predictive power of ASKBILL immortalised in song
An off-the-cuff comment and a spur of the moment decision to “have a go” have resulted in the sheep industry’s new predictive app, ASKBILL, being brought to life in song by Uralla musician Rhonda Brooks. Performed in a bush ballad style by Coffs Harbour musician Mal Winckle, the track is proving a popular addition to the ASKBILL website, helping to capture producers’ imagination as to the possibilities on offer... Click Here To Read Full Article »
RamSelect moves towards commercial business model
The popular RamSelect app will move to a commercial funding model ahead of this season’s ram sales, as a first step towards ensuring the genetic selection tool’s financial viability and availability to producers in the long-term. RamSelect Plus is an easy to use web-based application,, which allows ram buyers to find and rank rams based on Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) that match their own... Click Here To Read Full Article »
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