The first field day involving the Merino Lifetime Productivity Project run under the auspices of MerinoLink attracted a lot of industry attention when the June 2016 drop unclassed Merino ewes were drafted into their respective sire groups.
The national project has the backing of Australian Wool Innovation, whilst local support from businesses with a direct link to the Merino industry is also appreciated.
When welcoming the visitors, MerinoLink CEO and site manager, Sally Martin, said the trial is one of five nationwide which are all looking at co-ordinating greater productivity from Merino ewes across various environmental regions.
Ms Martin particularly wished to thank local support from Moses and Sons, Bluechip Livestock, Zoetis, Allflex, Allstock, Elanco, Bayer and Tru-test.
The other sites are situated at Pingelly, WA, Balmoral, Victoria, Trangie and Armidale.
Ms Martin noted the 2016 ewes are on display, with the 2017 drop due to be born in June, and they will then be rigorously classed as in a commercial situation.
“The ewes will be followed through for their lifetime, so we will measure all of their productive traits, including wool body weight, worm egg count, and in particular, a focus on reproduction,” she said.
The ewes will be mated naturally throughout their lifetime, scanned and all traits will be measured of their progeny up until weaning.
The wether portion will leave the project once weaned.
“The 2016 drop have been shorn and are on an agistment block,” Ms Martin said.
“They will be finished and processed through Fletchers and evaluated in line with what is done in wether trails.”
Ms Martin noted it is envisaged the 2017 wether drop will be split in half – with 50 percent to be finished and processed, while the balance will be kept through to adulthood as woolcutters for three or four years.
“I know a lot of people don’t keep wethers to an older age but we want to be able to start bringing a lot of the information we are collecting from wether trials and compare that with what we are doping with the ewes,” she said.
Ms Martin said it is unique trail in that it involves “a number of different classing requirements”, each designed to fully evaluate the true performance of the individual Merino ewes.
“Craig Wilson, has been approved by the executive to be our professional classer and he will be supported by Ben Patrick and Michael Corkhill, who are classing our associated sire evaluation run on Cavan Station, Yass,” she said.
“Our plan will be to have a young classer come in each year to help the existing classers, so we are looking at a mentoring program and start training a lot of people to be able to do this work as well.”
Chairman of MerinoLink, Richard Keniry told the interested crowd the project is designed to transfer results from information days and research trials, and put them in the hands of producers in layman’s terms.
“Our main objective is take that information and give it to you as producers to help you make good decisions on your farm and at the end of the day make your business more profitable,” Mr Keniry said.
“One of our key goals is to drive this industry engagement and transfer of knowledge from individual researchers into your hands.
“We really want to take MerinoLink into an area which is helping producers make better decisions.”