Genetics

breeding objective

We are increasing our focus on yearling bodyweights, meat yields and fat and muscle traits in addition to our wool and adult bodyweight traits. This will allow us to produce sheep that both produce valuable fleeces and also grow a valuable carcase in as short a time as possible. 

breeding philosophy

We believe in the importance of using objective measurement of the key economic traits to identify the genetically superior animals in a cohort, and then to use these superior animals to breed the next generation. 

In our business the spreadsheet has replaced the sheep classer for accurate sheep selection. The hocus pocus of the sheep classer can't match the ability of targeted measurements, good scientific technique and spreadsheets to more accurately identify the best 1-3 rams in a group of 200 or the best 120 breeders in a mob of 1,500 maiden ewes.

We have been breeding our own rams for over 10 years. Our ram breeding nucleus is based on several AI programs using semen from Australia's most elite merino sires. 

The ram breeding program follows "world's best practice", as advised by Sheep Genetics Australia. 


artificial insemination (AI) programs

We have conducted several AI programs to import some of Australia's best genetics into our flock. Semen selected for our AI programs came from the top 1-2% of Australian rams identified through objective measurement. These individual rams all rank very highly on the Sheep Genetics Australia or the Central Test Sire Evaluation database.

Leading sires from Kia-ora, Hazeldean and Billandri have been used in our programs. Our broad use of rams has minimised any risk that may come from inbreeding. 

ram breeding program

In 2009, we decided to breed our own rams to ensure far greater control over our genetic destiny. The genetic focus being on breeding sheep that produced high value fleeces, are highly fertile, easy care, not susceptible to blowfly and produced wool at a very low cost of production. 

We have adopted various technologies including electronic tags, stick readers, sheep handlers, etc. with a view to both reduce labour and increase the accuracy of sheep assessment, data collation and selection. For example, all sheep bred on the property have electronic tags to maximise the genetic pool for assessment which in turn maximises genetic progress and ensures ease of data capture and accuracy.

At our annual shearing's, we side sample, fleece weigh and body weight all maiden ewes to identify the next 80 ewes as new entrants into the ram breeding nucleus. This raw data is submitted to RAMPOWER program for calculation of a 7%MP index on each of these animals so we can identify the top performing ewes.

Advice was sought on all aspects of creating a ram breeding nucleus flock, including importation of external genetics, role of genomics, and the use of Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBV) for internal selection of both males and females. SHEEP GENETICS AUSTRALIA, the Mackinnon Project and Anne Ramsay of Stenhouse Consulting have played key roles.


fertility

Fertility is an increasingly important profit driver in merino sheep production systems. To achieve a high level of genetic fertility, we have placed selection pressure on the following:

  • All young rams are critically assessed for testicle size
  • We select for lower wrinkle score and open faces 
  • There is moderate selection pressure on FAT and MUSCLE EBV's as these traits are associated with increased fertility in marginal environments
  • Most years, we will sell all empty ewes following pregnancy scanning

Over the past 3 years we have marked >80% across the flock. Whilst much of this great result can be attributed to our wild dog exclusion fences built in 2015-2017, we are confident in the genetics of fertility in our sheep. 

easycare sheep, welfare, blowflies and mulesing

Dunblane ceased mulesing over 10 years ago. 

Fly strike outbreaks represent a major animal welfare risk in sheep flocks as well as creating a significant workload and profit reduction. Reducing labour costs per DSE is critical to enterprise profitability. 

We decided that mulesing was not an acceptable way to protect sheep from blowfly strike, hence we ceased mulesing over 10 years ago and focussed on genetics whereby we breed a sheep with low body wrinkle and improved wool quality traits.

top sires from the 2019 drop

These top sires have delivered across the wide range of traits that we are measuring. The ram with a F on his side is a champion sire from 2 years ago.  

 

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