ASBVs deliver genetic gains

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Bob GarnantCountryman
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Barooga Merino stud principal Andrew Higham and Scan West Livestock principal Peter Moore with a selection of rams destined to be catalogued for sale.
Camera IconBarooga Merino stud principal Andrew Higham and Scan West Livestock principal Peter Moore with a selection of rams destined to be catalogued for sale. Credit: Countryman

A Williams Merino stud has made significant genetic gains since adding MerinoSelect Australian Sheep Breeding Values to its selection criteria.

Fourth-generation Barooga Merino stud principal Andrew Higham said initially he was observing plainer and bigger body types after using ASBV measured sires in his family’s 700 stud ewe flock.

“We started sending our data to MerinoSelect in 2010, and after 11 years of using performance measurements, we are very pleased with our progress,” he said.

Barooga Merino stud principal Andrew Higham and Scan West Livestock principal Peter Moore inspect a Westray sired ram destined to be catalogued for sale.
Camera IconBarooga Merino stud principal Andrew Higham and Scan West Livestock principal Peter Moore inspect a Westray sired ram destined to be catalogued for sale. Credit: Countryman

Mr Higham, who offers 100 rams, mostly polls, annually at the Barooga Merino and Noorla Dohne Ram Sale at the Williams Ram Shed, said regular ram buyers were interested in the ASBV figures that were posted on each ram pen.

“We are picking up one or two new clients every year who have been interested in figures,” he said.

“ASBVs and the dual-purpose index are a good talking point to fit the best rams to our clients’ requirements.

“We have clients that shear every eight months and require the appropriate staple length along with our soft white wools that average 19-20 micron and are bold crimping.”

A sale line-up of Barooga Merino rams.
Camera IconA sale line-up of Barooga Merino rams. Credit: Countryman

Mr Higham was selecting sale rams with the assistance of Williams-based Scan West Livestock principal Peter Moore when Countryman visited the Barooga stud.

Mr Moore has been scanning the stud’s yearlings since 2010 to gather the data to be sent to MerinoSelect for analysis.

“We have been gradually increasing growth rate, while eye muscle depth has been above average on the MerinoSelect data base,” he said.

“The flock is equal nationally in averages for fleece weight and staple length.”

Mr Higham selects outside sires based on sound conformation and figures, preferably ASBVs.

He said sires had been selected from Victoria-based Wallaloo Park, Kojonup-based Anderson Rams, and NSW-based Westray Merinos on figures and body conformation, the latter more so on body size.

“We have a target of increasing muscle and fat, while not sacrificing on fleece quality and weight,” he said.

“We have averaged 100 per cent lambing in the last five years which validates our breeding direction,” he said.

“Our stud lambs drop in May and the commercials in July.

“Through DNA testing, we are ensuring we have a high concentration of Poll Merinos.”

Barooga Merino stud.
Camera IconBarooga Merino stud. Credit: Countryman

Mr Higham and his son Anthony run a commercial self-replacing flock of 3800 Merino ewes and sell their freshly weaned wethers to graziers that are regular clients.

“Our repeat grazier clients send us positive feedback on how the wethers grow out quickly,” he said.

Countryman’s annual Science of Merino feature, a guide to some of the best ASBV measured Merino studs in WA, will be published and presented inside the August 12 edition.

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