Use of the objective genetic assessment tool, Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs), has grown so rapidly in the Merino industry in the last five years that close to 50% of all Merino rams are now sold by studs that are members of MERINOSELECT.
Recent analysis by the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) reveals that studs in MERINOSELECT now provide around half of the Merino rams used by commercial producers and more than 80% of the semen used for ram breeding. The analysis shows significant changes since the last assessment in 2014 suggesting only 18% of Merino rams being produced by studs using MERINOSELECT (MLA reports B.EVA.001 &2).
Sheep CRC chief executive James Rowe analysed a range of industry data sources in compiling the report, ‘Growing Impact of MERINOSELECT’, to assess the impact of the Sheep CRC’s ongoing work in delivering faster and more affordable genetic gain to the sheep industry.
“The report focusses on the Merino sector because of its relative importance to the entire sheep industry, contributing over 75% of the genetic make-up of the Australian flock, and the perception that the Merino sector has been slow to adopt new genetic technologies,” Prof. Rowe said.
“In fact, the data shows that use of ASBVs is now becoming the norm in the Merino industry, with the number of sheep registered with MERINOSELECT having doubled since 2011, and this trend has been accelerated by the availability of DNA testing and the fast growing demand for poll rams.”
The Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC), operates as part of the Federal Department of Industry, Innovation and Science’s CRC program. It is a collaboration of more than 40 organisations from across industry, government and the commercial sector, and includes producer groups, farm advisers, universities and research organisations, meat processors and retailers.
Through the Sheep CRC there has been significant investment of Commonwealth and CRC Participant resources in the development and adoption of new genetic technologies through activities including the Information Nucleus Flock, RamSelect training workshops and web-based app, and the development of DNA tests for parentage, poll, production traits and flock benchmarking.
“In reviewing genetic technology uptake in the Merino sector, the trend lines show strong growth in the number of studs using MERINOSELECT and increasing sales of rams and semen by studs that are members of MERINOSELECT,” Prof. Rowe said.
“The availability of DNA tests also appears to have accelerated the swing towards poll rams among Merino breeders and their clients.
“This shows that working with our Participants and particularly with Sheep Genetics, the initiatives delivered through the CRC are having a real impact on the industry.
“The use of genomic information through MERINOSELECT and the recent introduction of single step analysis will further increase the rate of genetic gain achieved by studs that are members of MERINOSELECT and provides further incentive for membership of MERINOSELECT.”
Prof. Rowe said a priority for the CRC over the next 12 months would be to provide continued training to commercial sheep producers and their advisors to ensure they are able to effectively use ASBV information in their ram-buying decisions and increase the profitability of their sheep enterprises.
Headline figures from the report show:
* The numbers of sheep ‘registered’ each year in Sheep Genetics increased from around 50,000 in 2011 to nearly 90,000 in 2014 and by 2017 registrations were over 100,000.
* Over the same period from 2012 to 2016 the number of Merino ewes joined to Merino rams decreased from 20.7 m to 17.8 m thus needing fewer Merino rams. (‘MLA-AWI Wool and Sheepmeat Survey Report – Sheepmeat’ November 2016).
* Taken together the increased membership of MERINOSELECT and reduced requirement for Merino rams means that studs registered with MERINOSELECT are now estimated to supply around 47% of Merino sires.
* Of the 45 studs studied from the Annual Journal of the NSW Stud Merino Breeders Association Top Sire 2016 list, 25 were MERINOSELECT members.
* The trend lines for the studs using MERINOSELECT indicates a much faster rate of increase in ram and semen sales compared to sales from studs that are not members of MERINOSELECT.
* Sales of poll Merino rams is growing fast compared to sales of horned rams and the trend is supported by the introduction of the DNA test for poll introduced in 2009.