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Wool Stocktake : AWI Annual Report 2017-18
STRATEGIC TARGETS (continued) Targets for three-year period 2016/17 to 2018/19 Progress during 2017/18 2. Routine, low-cost per head alternatives to genomic parentage technology in wide commercial use for mothering-up Merino lambs. On target. Proximity sensors have proved to be an accurate and rapid method for establishing maternal pedigree across a range of conditions experienced on commercial farms. ActiGraphs, a human monitoring system, were used to match >15,000 ewes and lambs from 40 flocks on 21 farms. The success at matching a lamb to its ewe was 94.7% across the 40 flocks so these sensors would appear to be a promising alternative to traditional methods. The sheep smart tag being developed by AWI is capable of generating maternal pedigree thanks to the proximity sensor embedded in the device. This tag will be tested in the paddock for this purpose during next year. 3. Australian sheep breeders maintain access to consolidated and improved wether trial, central test sire evaluation and MERINOSELECT databases. Achieved. Wether trials continue and an updated analysis of the past 10 years data is available on the AWI and NSW DPI Merino Bloodline Performance websites. Sire Evaluation has expanded to 10 sites across Australia with 7 joining for a 2018 drop lamb. Site reports are available on the AWI and AMSEA Merino Superior Sires websites. AWI withdrew from Sheep Genetics in July 2016 with the view that after 11 years of operational funding Sheep Genetics operationally needed to run on a user pays basis. MLA continues to provide MERINOSELECT and DOHNE ASBV analysis and with an AWI review into the priorities for further R&D complete, AWI is looking to commit further R&D funding with a lifetime productivity and welfare focus. KEY RESULTS DURING 2017/18 SIRE EVALUATION • There are seven sites joining for a 2018 drop lamb, these are: Balmoral, North East Victoria, Macquarie (as part of MLP), New England (as part of MLP), Muresk, Yardstick and South Australia. Queensland and Tasmania have not run a joining since 2011 and 2013 respectively. Each site is self-funded through entry fees with AWI funding used with coordination, analysis and publication of results. • The largest joining in the history of Merino Sire Evaluation took place in 2017 both in terms of the number of sires and the number of sites; there were 131 sires joined across nine sites. Nineteen new studs entered a ram for the first time; this is 15% of all entries. • 2017 has been a very active year with 14,795 downloads of site reports and 4,696 downloads of Merino Superior Sires annual publication No 22 (2016) and No 23 (2017). • There are 938 sires that have been entered in Sire Evaluation that have 233,711 progeny in MERINOSELECT and there are 827 sires that have 441,364 grand progeny. With a total of 886,275 animals entered into MERINOSELECT in the past 10 years, it illustrates the influence of Sires that have been evaluated through Sire Evaluation Sites. HISTORICAL SIRE EVALUATION SIRES • Sixteen old sires used in Sire Evaluation trials circa 1995 have been retested in current day Sire Evaluation trials. When analysed using new identification, the 16 rams’ average ASBVs were very close to the Breeding Values of the sires when tested 20 years earlier. This shows that the method of using repeat sires or links between sites and between years is working over a 20-year time period. • The sixteen old sires when evaluated in 1995 were on average in the top 35% for the Merino Production Index compared to the average of the sires evaluated then; but they are now in the bottom 15% compared to sires evaluated in 2015. Fleece weights are up 11%, micron is down by 0.7 and body weight up 3.3kg compared to 1995. This is an objective analysis of the considerable advancement in the productivity of the sires being entered into Sire Evaluation over this 20-year period. WETHER TRIALS • NSW DPI has conducted another wether trial analysis and it is published on the AWI and NSW DPI websites. The relative performance of 73 commonly used Merino bloodlines has been updated with the 2018 analysis of 25 wether trials conducted in NSW (24) and Tasmania (1) between 2007 and 2018. Bloodlines have been assessed for clean fleece weight, fibre diameter, liveweight, staple length and staple strength along with wool quality traits (style and colour). Simulation modelling using GrassgroTM generated two measures of financial performance of the bloodlines, expressed on a $/head and $/DSE basis. The previous 2006 - 2016 analysis, reported data from 26 trials with 77 bloodlines. MERINO LIFETIME PRODUCTIVITY (MLP) PROJECT • The MLP project is assessing how well correlated early age assessments and predictions of productivity are with their actual lifetime productivity. Results will support or assist the fine- tuning of current predictions so that ram breeders and buyers can be more confident in selections for lifetime productivity at the increasingly young ages industry has adopted in recent decades. It will also assess the current push for even younger age ram selection at five to six months of age using genomically enhanced Breeding Values. The MLP project will also create a database where a wide range of hypothesis can be assessed about visual 32 REPORT OF 2017/18 OPERATIONS – SHEEP PRODUCTION
AWI Annual Report 2016-17