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Genetic tools drive success at ewe competition

Monday 29th of February 2016

Wool producers from the NSW Central West have been encouraged to make use of new and powerful tools to improve flock genetics, at last week’s Parkes Maiden Ewe Competition.

Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) chief executive James Rowe has told competitors that they can rapidly improve their results through the use of genetic selection tools, such as the RamSelect app and DNA testing.

“It is an exciting time to be in the Merino industry, with expanding business opportunities that go beyond quality wool production and include the development of yearling sheepmeat markets which could particularly benefit Merino producers,” Prof. Rowe said.

“To capitalise on these opportunities, the Sheep CRC has developed tools to help unlock the power of genetic improvement which sheep breeders can access right now for immediate impact on their flock.”

The Sheep CRC is a collaboration of industry and government with the aim of increasing the productivity and profitability of the industry through the utilisation of new technologies in both the meat and wool supply chains.

Its RamSelect app assists producers to quickly and easily identify rams best suited to their requirements based on the objective data from Australian Sheep Breeding Values.

“Producers love RamSelect because it uses plain English to rank rams in the Sheep Genetics sale catalogues on the basis of attributes important for individual production systems,” Prof. Rowe said.

DNA tests are also available through the Sheep CRC which can identify at a very early age the genetic traits present in breeding flock, including traits that traditionally can only be measured late in life or after slaughter such as reproductive performance, parasite resistance and meat eating quality.

“Knowing the genetic potential of the flock will make it possible to better select rams for specific production objectives,” Prof. Rowe said. “Not only do these new DNA technologies provide new opportunities for ram breeders but also for commercial producers.

“A new approach to predicting the average breeding value of a ewe flock will only require testing of a small sub sample of lambs and will be extremely valuable in working out which rams to buy to deliver the improved performance.”

Prof. Rowe spoke to breeders during a tour of properties between Parkes and Peak Hill on Friday, where nine competitors had their best mobs of young ewes on display for judging.

The Parkes Maiden Ewe Competition is organised by Garry O'Brien and sponsored by Graeme Ostini, of Ostini Wool, who said a variety of types and bloodlines were visually assessed for their breeding and wool traits, with competitors and spectators alike seeking insights into how to improve their flock productivity.

“It’s important for sheep producers to be forward thinking about what practices will be beneficial to their operations and to hear what new technologies are being developed,” Mr Ostini said.

“It was particularly exciting to hear about the research the Sheep CRC is undertaking to find new markets for yearling sheepmeat, so that we can retain our young Merinos longer on farm for their fleece without losing value for the meat they provide.”

More information on the Sheep CRC’s research program is available at www.sheepcrc.org.au

Media contact: Michael Thomson on 07 4927 0805 / 0408 819 666

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