More than meets the eye in Superior Sires

More to the top rankings than meets the eye


Finding the perfect ram is pretty hard to find and even harder to prove says industry expert.


Rams from three different states have dominated the top rankings in the Merino industry according to the latest Merino Superior Sires publication.

The recently released 26th edition of Merino Superior Sires 2020, published by the Australian Merino Sire Evaluation Association (AMSEA), reports the results of 350 sire entrants from the 2015-19 drops entered at 11 sire evaluation sites across the major wool producing areas of Australia.

These sites total three sites in Western Australia, one in South Australia, two in Victoria plus five located in NSW and include the five MLP Project sites.

Merino Superior Sires reports Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) for each sire for a range of measured traits including clean fleece weight, fibre diameter, staple strength, body weight, eye muscle depth, fat depth, plus worm egg count.

Sires are ranked on dual purpose index (DP+), Merino production plus index (MP+), fibre production plus index (FP+) and wool production plus index (WP+).

Ranked number one for the DP+ index was One Oak No.2, 130004. This ram also ranked 2nd in both the MP+ and WP+ indexes.

This 2013-drop ram was purchased by Jock MacRae of Eilan Donan Merinos at Adelaide in 2015 and has now been used in four other flocks in Merino Select.

Ranked 1st in the MP+ and WP+ indexes was a WA ram by Woodyarrup stud, 140149, who also ranked 2nd in the DP+ and FP+ indexes.

A NSW ram from Tallawong stud, 150280, was ranked 1st in the FB+ index as well as 3rd in the MP+ index.

But according to AMSEA executive officer and principal of BCS Agribusiness Ben Swain there is more to the top rankings than meets the eye and if people don't understand the reason behind why an animal is high indexing, it can often prove "dangerous" when making breeding decisions.

"The Woodyarrup ram is scattered along the top of all those indexes..... It's rare to get a ram that will perform that well from a dual purpose index through to a fibre production index because they are very different production systems," Mr Swain said.

"He's extremely high clean fleece weight is a major driver of all of the indexes, so a ram like that will sit at the top of a lot of the indexes because all of the indexes are driven by clean fleece weight to a significant extent.

"Even the dual purpose index has a significant emphasis on clean fleece weight. But he is not the ideal ram for dual purpose production, he is the ideal animal for wool production."

However, he said a ram such as One Oak 2, although he is not as "extreme" in clean fleece weight, he is very good for a lot of other traits.

"If you're not a breeder that really wants to really push fleece weight - you should be more interested in eye muscle depth, fat, and repro," he said.

"If you look at the Moojepin ram, he is perfect for fat and muscle, but he sits down at position 12 because he is low for fleece weight, but he is terrific for fat and muscle."

A ram used in the Merino Lifetime Project (MLP), Mr Swain said he was specifically selected because he is all about the dual purpose industry.

"There's not a lot of wool on him because he is putting all the energy into the carcase and the reproduction, but he doesn't actually sit at the top of the dual purpose index because he's fleece weight puts him well down about half way for ASBVs for fleece weight," he said.

"It's very difficult to have a ram to have it all, but that's okay.

"Sires chosen for the MLP are selected for diversity out of 500 nominations, and we look for all those different types of rams and I can tell you we didn't find a ram that did it all.

"They are pretty hard to find and they are pretty hard to prove."

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