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

PW4.1 New Opportunities in Genetics and Genomics

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

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 »
Faster, more accurate DNA Parentage and Poll test to be released in July
Sheep breeders will have access to a faster, more accurate DNA test for parentage and poll/horn status from July, which also includes new features to detect a range of genetic defects. First launched in 2012 by the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC), the DNA Parentage and Poll test has proven very popular with sheep breeders seeking to improve their genetic selections through more precise... Click Here To Read Full Article »
‘Eye opening’ DNA Flock Profile delivers new breeding insights at Beechworth
DNA testing to obtain a genetic flock profile has changed the way Victorian Merino breeder Stuart Warner not only looks at his flock, but how he will approach his genetic selection decisions in the future. As a registered deliverer of Bred Well Fed Well and RamSelect workshops, Mr Warner has a close understanding of the power of Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) as an objective genetic selection tool. Click Here To Read Full Article »
The power of prediction now in sheep producers’ hands – just ASKBILL
A new app launched today will give sheep producers the power to see their stock’s future, all from the palm of their hand. The app, available at, was made live to the public today, marking the start of a limited offering of the ASKBILL platform as part of a pre-release user feedback program – a vital step in putting the finishing touches to the product prior to ASKBILL’s full commercial release later... Click Here To Read Full Article »
To see your livestock’s future, just ASKBILL – new app live from Monday
Sheep producers and farm advisers are set to be wowed by the predictive power of the Sheep CRC’s latest flock-management app, ASKBILL, which will be released to industry on Monday. The web-based app,, has been designed to draw on information generated by biophysical models that use daily downloads of climate data and forecasts to provide estimates for individual farms of the risk of flystrike and... Click Here To Read Full Article »
DNA Parentage raises the bar for ASBV accuracies
DNA Parentage testing of progeny from multiple sire mating groups significantly improves the accuracy of breeding values associated with their bloodlines, a new trial has found. A genomic validation trial conducted in conjunction with Australian Wool Innovation, Sally Martin Consulting, Moses & Son, and Bluechip Livestock, used Sheep CRC DNA tests to identify parentage of the progeny of 300 ewes that had been joined in a... Click Here To Read Full Article »
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