Manager of the Shelburn flock comes under the control of Gordon Brown and their sheep consultant Nathan Scott. Being two very progressive minds without limitations and broad thinking, they decided it might be worth trialling Merino rams over Maternal Composite ewes. The idea that a bit of hybrid vigour and a decrease in the micron of the wool could be a good thing, they purchased 3 Glendemar MPM flock rams. Due to Gordon's exceptional management of scanning between 185% - 200% of foetus in lamb, a good number of 400 Glendemar MPM cross lambs were produced in 2018.
The Results So Far
From a 33-micron Maternal Composite base, the 50% Glendemar MPM cross lambs at around 5 months wool reduced to 23.1 Micron. Glendemar MPM cross lambs - 23.1 Micron wool sold for 1070 cents greasy. Shelburn Maternal Composite lambs - 28.7 Micron wool sold for 540 cents greasy.
235, 5.5-month-old, 50% Glendemar MPM blood lambs were consigned to Cedar Meats in Melbourne in January 2019. Lambs weighed 51.4 kg ave liveweight. Carcass weight of 24.88 kg ave. Dressing % of 48.5. $7:20 kg X 24.88 = $179.33 per head
2 mobs of Shelburn Maternal Composite ewes joined to Glendemar MPM rams returned scanning rates of 193% and 188%. 160 50% Glendemar MPM ewe lambs weighed 57.1 kg at joining time scanned 136%. Glendemar MPM ewe lambs were about 5kg heavier at joining compared to Shelburn Maternal Composites. All ewes had similar scanning rates
With the outstanding potential of the Glendemar MPM lambs, Gordon invested in another 8 rams at our On-property Sale. These rams were a large step up in terms of wool quality, growth, muscle and fat compared to the 3 original ock rams. We are excited of the potential these rams can produce, and Gordon has certainly held up his end in scanning 188%, and 193% to the ewes joined to Glendemar MPM rams.
With the article that Nathan Scott has written in this newsletter in mind, we are breeding the maternal ewe backwards using the exceptional growth, fertility and carcass composition of the Maternal Composite and the wool quality, growth, muscle, fat and fertility of the Glendemar MPM ram's, to produce a quality ewe moving forward.
We are super excited to see the progeny of the rst cross Glendemar MPM ewes joined back to high performance based White Suffolk ewes. All this has been possible and successful because of Gordon's vision and willingness to accept that maybe there is a better way to breed a productive and profitable ewe base.
Into the future, it would be great to get full individual carcass feedback on the progeny and see what the meat-eating quality is like. I would be very confident that it should be consistently high. We would like to anyone that may have an interest in doing similar mating's with their ewes to join us for a Field Day at Gordon's place on the 20th September.
5 month old Glendemar MPM x Shelburn Composite Ewe Lambs
By Nathan Scott - Achieve Ag Solutions
Just because something has been done a certain way, certainly doesn't mean it needs to continue. And that goes for breeding sheep as well. Let's think about our national flock, and what it is made up of. In the past, ewe numbers were dominated by merinos, with a sole focus of wool production. Cut more kilograms, and keep it fine. Makes perfect sense when wool is making good money.
There was, and to a certain extend still is, one clear problem however. Our national flock was not based off good robust animals with high reproduction rates, great lamb survival, early growth, muscle and fat and plain body easy care sheep. It was wool, wool more wool and finer wool, which are the exact traits that are antagonistic with reproduction and lamb survival. Wool traits are visible, highly heritable (comparatively with other traits like reproduction) and therefore easily influenced. The historical approach was simple. Focus on the traits you can see and improve them. That narrow focus, however has progressively taken the industry down a path that we must now find our way back from.
We have the tools available to us today (Genomics, ASBV's etc) that those in the past didn't. With these tools, there is no excuse for breeding animals that don't offer the balance and robustness that a commercial sheep operation requires.
So, if we were to be starting from a clean slate, how would you design the breeding program for the national sheep flock. Would you aim for animals that cut more wool, at finer micron, and then hope for some miraculous improvement in reproduction and lamb survival? Or would you design a robust animal that requires less maintenance, has high reproductive rates, and great lamb survival?
Remember that due to the higher heritability, and easily measurable wool traits, we can make more rapid progress on wool traits when we have the ability to apply selection pressure. The ability to apply selection pressure comes from numbers. High marking percentages, better lamb survival and ewe lamb joining's all allow for more selection pressure. It is my belief that we have been breeding sheep backwards for over 100 years. What we should be aiming to do is get the animal right as the highest priority, and then refine the wool traits. Your progress will be much faster, and your sheep operation more rewarding.
But it isn't just the merinos that have been bred backwards. Where have our first cross ewes come from? Generally, cull merino ewes. And they could be anything. How is that ever going to provide us with the best possible lamb flock? Don't get me wrong, I love the hybrid vigour, and I love the wool value offered by a first cross ewe. I just don't believe we are producing the best first cross ewes possible. So, what if we did it backwards? We now have clients joining a portion of their high-performance composite ewes, back to a high-performance merino ram with great muscle, fat, and growth to produce a first cross ewe. The absolute best of both worlds. You get more lambs per ewe, they grow faster than a traditional first cross lamb, giving you a better opportunity to join ewe lambs, have lower adult weights and the wethers will carry all of the meat-eating traits offered by intramuscular fat from the merino. Something that our industry will recognise in the years to come with a value-based payment system (meat eating quality and lean meat yield).
The hybrid vigour offered by reintroducing merino into a composite situation is strong, and helps enormously in providing fast growing progeny. For our clients doing it already, the ewe lambs cut 23 micron wool, and scanned at 136%. I really believe that as an industry (and there are always exceptions), we have been breeding sheep backwards. Sometimes out of a lack of necessary tools and knowledge, and sometimes simply out of tradition and stubbornness. But just because we have, doesn't mean that we should. It is time for change. Be the future you want. Have we been breeding sheep backwards?
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