Weaning way for merinos

weeklytimes NOW, August 2, 2012

By Brian Clancy

Improved weaning percentages and weaning weights lead preferences for Merino breeders.

That's the findings of a survey by Sheep Genetics and Meat and Livestock Australia.

The survey conducted online involved 237 breeders who, combined, ran 850,000 ewes. Sheep Genetics project officer Luke Stephen said the survey, which was conducted in March, invited ram breeders and commercial producers to participate.

Mr Stephen said the survey, which was backed by the Australian Association of Stud Merino Breeders, was an attempt to ascertain a trait preference.

The survey used a 1000minds program in which respondents have to decide between one of two options, which, in this case, were two economic traits.

Fifteen traits were canvassed in the survey.

They included such changes as lifting adult clean fleece weights by 0.5kg, increasing back fat coverage by 0.5mm, increasing weaning weight by 4kg, decreasing worm egg counts by 10 per cent or increasing numbers of lambs weaned per 100 ewes by six.

Other traits canvassed in the survey included staple length, staple strength, comfort factor, breech wrinkle, fibre diameter and the cost of ewe maintenance.

Mr Stephen said survey respondents covered a wide range of age, demographics and included many ram breeders who were not participants in Sheep Genetics's MerinoSelect.

On a ranking of 1-15, a lift in weaning percentage was the No.1 preference and cited by 9.6 per cent of the respondents.

A rise in weaning weight came second, while an increase in fleece weight was third followed by hogget weight at four.

Reducing the maintenance cost of ewes by $4 was fifth, while a 10 per cent reduction in worm eggs counts was ranked sixth and preferred by 7.1 per cent of respondents.

Rises in adult weight and crimp frequency were the 14th and 15th ranked preferences.

Mr Stephen said the survey results would provide useful information for setting priorities for research.

Source: www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/article/2012/08/02/517551_sheep.html