WALCHA’S Yalgoo Merino stud will celebrate 70 years and 30 years of sales in 2018.
The Nivison family’s stud, established by current principal Jock Nivison’s grandfather, Jock senior, in 1949, began with sheep that were part of the original Ohio flock, which came from sheep imported from Tasmania in the 1880s.
The operation has grown to include a 600-ewe stud flock, but each commercial hogget ewe drop is also eligible for the stud.
“We’re choosing from a pool of about 4000 animals,” Mr Nivison said.
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The stud has been at the forefront of objective selection, with Mr Nivison’s father collecting data 45 years ago.
The focus on data has led to big improvements in the operation.
“We started with a 21-micron flock, then put a lot of pressure on micron using objective measurement to get to 19-micron, and we’re at 16.2-micron now.”
Since improving micron, the focus has been on increased fleece weight and body weight, and improved staple strength. In 2012 the stud introduced the Yalgoo 7/15 index, which focuses on the main profit drivers of Merino operations to work towards the goal of sheep cutting seven kilograms of wool at 15-micron.
Genetic selection has paid off for both micron and fleece weight, Mr Nivison said.
“This year’s rams are in the top 15 per cent for fleece weight and top 5pc for fibre diameter. Ten years ago we’d have hardly any rams in the top 10pc for either trait.”