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Genetic Evaluation Services
AWI supports services to assist woolgrowers select sheep using a range of genetic evaluation tools.
Identifying the appropriate ram source is crucial for the profitability of any wool-growing business. These five steps can be used with genetic evaluation tools to efficiently identify a ram source that will maximise profitability.
- Step 1: Your flock breeding objective
- Step 2: Benchmark performance
- Step 3: Consider all traits
- Step 4: Performance progress
- Step 5: Constraints
Genetic Evaluation Tools
The following genetic evaluation tools provide woolgrowers with comprehensive analysis, data, reporting, benchmarking and DNA tools to support their selection of their sheep.
The modern Merino is a complex animal, expected to produce large amounts of high quality wool, compete with specialised breeds in the global red meat market, rear enough progeny to be self-replacing and generate surplus sheep sales.
Luckily, there are many tools available to help you choose the right sheep to fit your breeding objective. The benefits of each of these tools are outlined in AWI's Sheep Selection Tools publication, allowing growers to use those which are most appropriate to the traits they're selecting for.
- Download AWI's Sheep Selection Tools booklet
Merino Bloodline Performance allows woolgrowers to compare Merino bloodlines based on the results of wether and ewe trials, run across Australia over the past 10 years.
A joint initiative between AWI and NSW Department of Primary industries (NSW DPI), the analysis takes out all known environmental factors between trials and years, leaving the remaining variation between the bloodlines due to genetic differences.
Merino Bloodline Performance highlights the diversity in wool production, wool quality and profitability for a wide range of bloodlines and allows woolgrowers to compare the strengths and weaknesses of each bloodline.
The 2018 results demonstrate significant variation in production between the 73 bloodlines, with a range of 3.6 µm in fibre diameter, 28% in clean fleece and 13% in liveweight. These production differences translate into very significant differences in bloodline profitability.
Commercial woolgrowers wanting to identify the best ram source to match their own breeding objective can use Merino Bloodline Performance to compare bloodlines evaluated at different trials and over different years.
- View the latest Merino Bloodline Performance Results
The Australian Merino Sire Evaluation Association runs Merino Sire Evaluation by comparing the progeny of 12 to 15 sires at a specific site over 2 years. The association produces annual reports that are published on the Merino Superior Sires website. There are 10 sites across Australia.
The sites are run by local committees who make a considerable contribution through in kind labour. Additional running costs are covered by sire entrant fees which range from $2,000 to $3,500 per sire between the sites. Collectively, the sites are overseen by the Australian Merino Sire Evaluation Association (AMSEA) Executive Committee made up of site representatives, AWI, MLA, and the Executive Officer. AWI funds the operations of the Executive.
Individual sires are joined through artificial insemination to 50 to 60 ewes. The ewes are randomly drawn from a consistent, well classed line of ewes to avoid bias. Link sires allow sires to be compared between years and between sites. Results are reported annually at a site field day and a Site Report on all assessments, including sire means and Flock Breeding Values, is produced and placed on the Merino Superior Sires website.
AMSEA produces an annual Merino Superior Sires publication which includes all AMSEA data combined with on-farm (ram breeder) data relating to the relevant sires.
MERINOSELECT is the national genetic information and benchmarking service for the Merino industry. The service provides a single national language in the form of "across flock" Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs).
Ram breeders and commercial woolgrowers can use these breeding values to compare the genetic potential of rams and ewes for a range of commercial traits, independent of the environment and location.
MERINOSELECT is managed by Sheep Genetics, as part of Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), and is based in Armidale NSW.
DOHNE MERINO is the national genetic information and benchmarking service for the Dohne Merino breed. The database uses the same structure as MERINOSELECT and is managed by Sheep Genetics.
A Dohne ASBV describes the expected performance of a Dohne' s progeny for a trait relative to the performance of all Registered Australian Dohne ram breeding flocks.
Dohne ram breeders produce ASBVs for major measured performance traits including:
- number of lambs weaned
- maternal weaning weight
- live weight
- muscle depth
- fat depth
- fleece weight
- fibre diameter
- coefficient of variation of fibre diameter.
Sheep Genetics also reports two standard indices for the DOHNE MERINO analysis; the Dohne Base index and the Dohne Plus index. Both indices were developed in conjunction with the Australian Dohne Breeders Association (ADBA), as well as using feedback from Dohne breeders to identify economic breeding objectives in commercial Dohne flocks.
A number of DNA tests are now available to sheep breeders that can assist them in making decisions concerning breeding and selection within their sheep enterprises.
Poll which allows producers to determine whether the progeny from a particular ram is more or less likely to have horns when mated to ewes with different genotypes.
Parentage can determine whether particular animals are the likely parents of a particular animal. The performance of ancestors can provide improved predictability of a young animal’s productivity up until that animal’s own progeny are assessed.
Genomics to improve the prediction of estimated breeding values particularly of young animals without tested progeny and for “hard-to-measure traits”.
Flock Profile which allows commercial Merino breeders to profile the genetic merit of their flock and compare this to the Sheep Genetics database.
Visit the SheepDNA website to order blood cards or tissue sampling units and protocols.
- Visit the Sheep CRC website for more information on the range of DNA tests available to sheep producers.
- Sheep Genetics provides practical information for Australian Merino breeders and wool growers on the genetic potential of their sheep.
- Enquiries relating to DNA testing can be directed to the DNA Processing Office on 02 6773 3466 or by emailing sheepDNA@sheepcrc.org.au