Home' Northern Outlook : June 15th 2013 Contents 9
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Let's Talk Farming
for a common goal
We want to know how to
get the fat where we
want it, to provide the
juiciness and taste in
themeat. . .''
each breeder has of their rams
The breeders bring their best
two rams to a meeting each year
where they choose which of the
others two rams they want to use
over 20 selected ewes.
Morton says this is designed to
improve the accuracy of data each
stud has of its rams.
The biggest risk factor for any
breeder is what we call wastage.
That s when you use a ram that
doesn t perform to expectations.
By swapping rams with other
farmers any anomalies are
Each ram is used by two
breeders then by its owner. Their
progeny s survival, growth, meat
yield, wool yield and, for those
ewe lambs that are kept to breed
from, fertility are recorded and
entered into Sheep Improvement
Ltd (SIL) database, the industry s
primary breeding information sys-
tem, where the rams are given a
This allows the breeders to ana-
lyse their flocks to identify the
top-performing sires purely on
their genetic merit.
The testing doesn t stop there.
Each year, the top ram from the
North and South Island groups is
put into the Central Progeny Test,
the country s most rigorous test of
sheep breeding quality. It
measures the performance of the
progeny of rams of a wide variety
of breeds across a range of traits --
fertility, meat value, growth, pH
(an indication of tenderness),
meat colour, fat colour, facial
eczema tolerance, parasite resist-
ance and fleece weight -- and the
top 25 are published.
The romney groups rams
usually make this top bracket.
Improving taste and tenderness
will be worked on in the future,
using the new ovine SNP (single
nucleotide polymorphism) chip
technology to chart small genetic
differences that produce a variety
of commercially important traits
However, the South Island
group has already received some
indication it is on the right track
with a lamb from its trials win-
ning the Mint Lamb taste compe-
tition at last year s Canterbury
Using SNP chips to add to their
knowledge of their rams capabili-
ties is where the breeders want to
take their research next.
Facial eczema tolerance is an
obvious selling point to commer-
cial farmers, but Hickford is look-
ing beyond them to the supermar-
Working with AgResearch, he is
looking at genes linked to fat
We want to know how to get
the fat where we want it, to pro-
vide the juiciness and taste in the
meat, and not get a whole lot
stuck on the outside of a carcass,
Financing the trials is expens-
ive and the groups in both islands
are grateful for sponsorship from
animal health company Merial
Ancare and tag maker Allflex.
They also appreciate the work
done by Hickford and Tricia John-
son, of AgResearch.
Hickford says they have already
added more bulk to romney s gen-
etic data available on SIL.
Despite the fact the romney is
the biggest breed and that most
flocks are based on romneys or
their crosses, it hasn t been
strongly linked genetically and
that has meant we couldn t be pre-
cise in any genetic evaluation of
Fertility dropped during the 80s
subsidy years, then came compe-
tition from imported breeds and
composites. But the work by the
Romney New Zealand groups is
having a big impact, he says.
Morton says being able to talk
frequently to like-minded
breeders about breeding and to
analyse each ram s results are the
main benefits for him. Fairfax NZ
QUALITY WANTED: John McIntyre, of Focus Genetics, selects a ram. The
company has just sent a large shipment of sheep to Australia.
Aussies prefer sheep
bred in New Zealand
ONE OF New Zealand s larger air
shipments of sheep has dotted
down in Australia to meet its
growing demand for Kiwi sheep
Focus Genetics has flown 100
primera and highlander rams
across the Tasman, the third
shipment in a year.
Focus animal breeding
specialist Daniel Absolom said
demand had been high.
The demand for our rams in
Australia exceeded all initial
expectations. The programme is
part of a long-term plan to
establish New Zealand sheep
genetics in the Australian market.
We have had a lot of inquiry
from Australia over the last 15
years but we wanted to find the
right partners before we sent any
rams. The primera and high-
lander breeds are now well estab-
lished here and the UK, and the
time is now right for Australia.
Focus has partnered Paringa
Livestock in Australia, providing
them with the two breeds.
Paringa Livestock director Tom
Lawson said there was a growing
demand in Australia for quality
New Zealand sheep genetics as
lamb survival rates were better in
extreme drought conditions.
In the last two years the
primera and highlanders results
have been phenomenal.
results so...there has been a big
rush from farmers to buy more.
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