Genetics focus of Merino productivity

Headshot of Bob Garnant
Bob GarnantCountryman
AWI industry relations officer Ellie Bigwood and MLP Project sire manager Bronwyn Clarke.
Camera IconAWI industry relations officer Ellie Bigwood and MLP Project sire manager Bronwyn Clarke. Credit: Bob Garnant/Countryman, Bob Garnant

A national Merino lifetime productivity project aimed at increased industry profitability hopes to unlock many questions including what type of genotypes and environments are most advantageous.

Merino Lifetime Productivity Project site manager Bronwyn Clarke told delegates at the Sheep Easy 2021 forum last Thursday, that the $13 million project (2015 to 2025) involved five sites with three in NSW including Armidale, Trangie and Temora, plus Harrow in Victoria, and Pingelly in WA.

She said the 10-year project, 64 per cent funded by Australian Wool Innovation, was a partnership between the sites, Australian Wool Innovation and the Australian Merino Sire Evaluation Association and involved data collection from 134 diverse Merino sires and 5700 ewe progeny.

“We are measuring everything we can across that time,” Dr Clarke said. “We need to collect all the data from each site to make comparisons across environments and genetic types to have the complete picture.”

She said at Pingelly, nine diverse top industry sires were AI mated to ewes at the University of WA’s Farm Ridgefield in 2015 and 2016.

“The ewe progeny from the 2015 matings, born in 2016, were then mated naturally to a team of rams in 2018 and the ewe progeny from the 2016 matings were first mated in 2019, with tissue samples taken from the progeny to identify the pedigree,” she said.

“At Pingelly, we have one more mob of progeny to measure in next year’s drops to finish our site’s data collection.”

Dr Clarke said the MLP Project field day at Pingelly would take place on October 22.

AWI industry relations officer Ellie Bigwood said the MLP Project was the biggest of its kind.

“On the back of this project, the MLP Analysis Project is running from 2021 to 2025 to process the two million data points from the five sites in order to enhance Merino breeding and selection strategies and improve lifetime productivity and profitability,” she said.

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