Ram ge­net­ics the key

Ex­pert ex­plains where fo­cus needed for bet­ter pro­duc­tiv­ity

South Burnett Times - - RURAL WEEKLY -

BUY­ING a bet­ter per­form­ing ram could earn pro­duc­ers greater an­nual re­turns and equate to sig­nif­i­cant gains in over­all en­ter­prise in­come, ac­cord­ing to a sheep and wool ad­viser.

Ge­off Duddy, from Sheep So­lu­tions, has been a guest pre­sen­ter at Lead­ing Sheep work­shops in south-western Queens­land this year, ad­vis­ing on man­age­ment strate­gies to min­imise sup­ple­men­tary feed­ing, re­duce pro­duc­tion costs and boost in­come.

Lead­ing Sheep is a proac­tive net­work of the state’s sheep and wool busi­nesses with a goal of equip­ping pro­gres­sive pro­duc­ers with knowl­edge, skills and the lat­est tech­nol­ogy so they can in­crease their long-term pro­duc­tiv­ity and prof­itabil­ity.

Lead­ing Sheep is funded by Aus­tralian Wool In­no­va­tion and Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Fish­eries and sup­ported by AgForce.

When it came to profit mar­gins Mr Duddy said ge­net­ics, nu­tri­tion and man­age­ment played a crit­i­cal part in lamb growth and weight gains.

It was th­ese el­e­ments, he em­pha­sised, that pro­duc­ers needed to fo­cus on as they were read­ily in­flu­enced at a prop­erty level.

“Ge­net­ics are at the core of any live­stock op­er­a­tion and in the case of sheep and wool op­er­a­tions, cou­pled with nu­tri­tion, they are the pri­mary in­flu­ences of speed of lamb turn-off,” he ex­plained.

“While wool cuts and qual­ity are im­pacted by ge­net­ics and man­age­ment, if you want to im­prove re­pro­duc­tion rates you need to look at ge­net­ics, nu­tri­tion and man­age­ment.”

Re­gard­less of the mar­ket goal, the ex­pe­ri­enced ad­viser, who has more than 25 years in the in­dus­try, said pro­duc­ers could gen­er­ally make money by in­vest­ing in bet­ter ge­net­ics.

“In­vest­ing in qual­ity ge­net­ics, for ex­am­ple buy­ing in bet­ter per­form­ing rams based on Aus­tralian Sheep Breeding Val­ues (ASBV) could eas­ily equate to an ex­tra $10 to $15 per lamb an­nu­ally,” Mr Duddy said.

“Buy­ing bet­ter ge­net­ics will al­ways pay, ir­re­spec­tive of whether pro­duc­ers feed or sell as stores or are tar­get­ing wool pro­duc­tion.

“Se­lect­ing and buy­ing a ram is among the most im­por­tant com­mer­cial de­ci­sions a sheep breeder makes each year and has the po­ten­tial to im­pact the ge­netic make-up and prof­itabil­ity of a sheep flock for decades.”

Mr Duddy said when it came to get­ting the de­ci­sion right

the first step for pro­duc­ers was to iden­tify their en­ter­prise goals and then se­lect a min­i­mum of two or three ASBVs to fo­cus on when buy­ing rams.

An ASBV is an es­ti­mate of the ge­netic po­ten­tial a sheep will pass on to its prog­eny.

ASBVs are avail­able for a range of eco­nom­i­cally im­por­tant traits, in­clud­ing wool and car­case breeding val­ues for fleece weights and qual­ity (strength, length, mi­cron, CV etc), car­case growth, fat and muscling and worm re­sis­tance.

“Se­lec­tion based on in­di­vid­ual ASBVs and/or an In­dex ‘num­ber’ that com­bines rel­e­vant traits into one sim­ple value can be used to compare in­di­vid­ual sheep.

“But keep in mind it is still im­por­tant to do a visual ex­am­i­na­tion of rams and se­lect for struc­tural and fleece traits suited to your en­vi­ron­ment and breeding pro­gram.

“Balanc­ing the two se­lec­tion meth­ods is the key.”

He said the ASBV data was a pow­er­ful in­di­ca­tor of ex­pected ge­netic out­comes and how sheep would per­form in the paddock so it was im­por­tant pro­duc­ers con­sid­ered it in the se­lec­tion process.

“ASBVs are a great tool for pro­duc­ers to help work out which ram has the best genes to pass on to prog­eny in your en­ter­prise, but as well as se­lect­ing for their en­ter­prise goal they also need to keep in mind their en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions so it is a com­plex de­ci­sion.”

Mr Duddy said ex­ten­sive tri­als through­out the in­dus­try had proved the long-term value of se­lect­ing breeding stock based on ASBVs.

Proof of Profit eval­u­a­tions, down­load­able from the Sheep

Ge­net­ics Aus­tralia web­site, from through­out Aus­tralia have con­sis­tently shown that ASBVs work in the real world.

“The clear mes­sage for pro­duc­ers is to se­lect for ASBVs that will op­ti­mise pro­duc­tiv­ity and that suit their own pro­duc­tion sys­tem and goals,” Mr Duddy said.

“If for ex­am­ple a pro­ducer buys a ram with high post wean­ing weight val­ues, lambs sired by that ram will be heav­ier at wean­ing, reach tar­get weights ear­lier and/or be heav­ier at mar­ket­ing, re­duc­ing pro­duc­tion costs and in­creas­ing profit.”

Ge­off Duddy is a pri­vate sheep and wool con­sul­tant with Sheep So­lu­tions.

If you want to im­prove re­pro­duc­tion rates you need to look at ge­net­ics... — Ge­off Duddy

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

WOOL IN­DUS­TRY: Nu­tir­tion and ge­net­ics play huge role in pro­ducer’s bot­tom line.

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