A two-year Merino Challenge which benchmarks genetics to assess the wool and meat productivity differences of 32 different Merino bloodlines has released preliminary results this week.

The Peter Westblade Memorial Merino Challenge 2012-2014 is Australia’s largest commercial evaluation of merino genetics, designed to facilitate the genetic benchmarking of the traits affecting fleece and carcass values.

The Merino Challenge held its first shearing evaluation on April 4-5 at the Temora Agricultural Innovation Centre, NSW. More than 300 people attended the event to see sixty teams sourced from commercial flocks in NSW, Vic, SA and Tasmania being shorn, whilst live data was available on every fleece.

Merino Challenge Convenor Mr Craig Wilson of Craig Wilson and Associates said some of the Merino industry’s largest breeders and most influential bloodlines are represented in the Challenge. Wethers entered are split evenly into wool and meat challenges, with the wool sheep run as a single mob at Temora at 10 DSEs a hectare.

“The preliminary wool results show the genetics of a flock can lead to massive productivity variations, the top 20 per cent of teams averaged 25% more clean wool, 1 micron finer, 6% heavier body weight and $13.50 per head more fleece value”.

“Breeders of merino sheep have some powerful information at their fingertips to assist their own theories and compliment their skills in breeding. Australian Sheep Breeding Values, Genomics, Merino Challenges and Sire Evaluations are all examples of quality independent tools that are able to be used,” Mr Wilson said.

The completed meat component of the Challenge, identifies that strains of Merino sheep have significantly better growth rates (28%) at the same age under the same nutritional opportunities. A comprehensive report has been produced where meat traits have been measured and analysed for the 60 different teams.

Marty Moses, Moses and Son Woolbrokers and Sally Martin, Sally Martin Consulting play integral roles in the Merino Challenge and without their assistance in co-ordination and data management a trial of this magnitude would be impossible.

“The data and information generated from the PWMMC is applicable to the whole of the Merino industry, not just the entrants. The wethers in the Challenge are a window to how your ewe flock is performing. Previous experiences show high performance genetics have the capacity to double the net income generated from a merino business” Mrs Martin said.

“The high performance team’s show that merino wool enterprises can often out perform other land uses in terms of net profit per hectare, with a significantly lower production risk” Mr Moses said.

This Merino Challenge is the sixth benchmarking evaluation run by Craig Wilson, where the first commenced in 2004 and was run at Collingullie, NSW. He has now been able to benchmark about 200 Merino businesses for both wool and meat productivity.

“The Merino Challenge enables Merino producers to get a measured analysis of where their genetics are at,” Mr Wilson said.

Results from the previous Merino Challenge showed the difference in net profit per ha between the top and bottom teams had been 114 per cent in the first year and 77 per cent in the final year.

The Merino Challenge will run for another 11 months at the Temora Agricultural Innovation Centre. The final shearing will take place in March, 2014 where individual data will be collected once again.

A comprehensive report will be produced in 2014 and a new Merino Challenge will kick off for another two years.

Major support for the PWMMC is coming from Australian Wool Innovation, Bluechip Livestock, Moses and Son and Sally Martin Consulting.

More information: Craig Wilson 0428 250 982

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