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DNA testing to drive new era of ewe competitions

Tuesday 18th of July 2017
Lu Hogan with the DNA testing blood cards at this year’s Parkes Ewe Competition
Lu Hogan with the DNA testing blood cards at this year’s Parkes Ewe Competition

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 decisions by competitors.

Entries are now open for the competition, with nominations due by the start of spring in order for DNA testing of the flocks to be completed prior to the harvest period later this year.

The Parkes Maiden Ewe Competition organising committee president Garry O'Brien and sponsor Graeme Ostini, of Ostini Wool, said the initiative was a great way of introducing sheep breeders to new technologies which could drive the businesses forward.

“There’s technology out there we need to learn about and put into practice if we’re to improve our flocks and take this industry forward,” Mr Ostini said. “Events like ours are a great opportunity to challenge producers to consider new ideas and try new things as part of a competitive sheep assessment.

“After we shear our wool and it goes out into the world, figures measuring quality are paramount in driving sales – we need to be using figures to our advantage at farm level as well in order to improve our productivity.”

The 2017 ewe trial was held in late February, with a variety of Merino types and bloodlines visually assessed for their breeding and wool traits, with competitors and spectators alike seeking insights into how to improve their flock productivity.

Mr Ostini said this desire for knowledge was behind the organising committee’s decision to invite the Sheep CRC’s Industry Engagement and Training Coordinator Lu Hogan to deliver a presentation to producers on judging day about new genetic selection technologies including the RamSelect Plus app and the range of DNA tests on the market.

RamSelect Plus is a really easy way to begin selecting rams based on Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs),” Ms Hogan said. “The web-based application allows ram buyers to find and rank rams that match their own breeding objective.

“And RamSelect works hand in hand with the DNA Flock Profile test which has only recently become commercially available to producers across Australia.”

The Flock Profile test will provide breeders with an estimate of the genetic merit of their flock relative to the national average. It allows breeders to:

  • track how their flock genetically compares to animals in MerinoSelect
  • identify genetic strengths and deficiencies for key Merino traits and indexes, and
  • identify rams on RamSelect.com.au carrying the ASBVs that will improve the genetic profile of their flock.

Merino producers wishing to enter the Doug Bicket Memorial Ewe trial in Parkes should contact Graeme Ostini on 0428 650 191.

More information on the Flock Profile DNA test is available at www.sheepcrc.org.au/goto/DNAtests .


Media contact: Michael Thomson, 0408 819 666.