Targeting genetics with superior traits in fat and muscling ability has the capability to increase, even double, a Merino enterprise's lambing rate.
And according to new data released, Merino producers, who are not only hitting higher lamb marking rates, can diversify their business to meet consumer demands, improve wool production and quality all while delivering premium value lamb cuts.
In fact, the data is so good, it's been referred to as a game-changer for the industry.
The sheep space is looking positive. In 2020 total sheep meat production increased with an estimated value of $1.4 billion and export demand reached a record value of over $1 billion for the first time.
According to NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) sheep genetics researcher Dr Sue Mortimer the increased demand for sheepmeat and changes in the relative prices paid for wool and meat are driving commercial Merino producers to consider running dual-purpose production systems in their breeding program.
"To help Merino producers get the 'right genes' for their breeding program, research we have conducted aims to improve the accuracy of selecting for meat yield and meat quality traits as well as the other traits important in a Merino dual-purpose production system such as wool," Dr Mortimer said.
"By improving the accuracy of genetic parameters ram breeders and sheep producers can have confidence that their breeding programs can be designed to improve meat and wool production."
Rick Power of Power Scan based out of Grenfell, is the only scanner in Australia accredited for Stock Scan and Genetics Australia.
He has been scanning since 2009 and is accredited to do muscle depth, muscle width, scanning both British breeds and Merinos
"I believe in the Merino game we have seen a huge change in muscle and fat and the Merino studs that have been scanning for the last seven years are starting to see the rewards," Mr Power said.
"As time goes on we are finding out that it is genetic, and particular sire groups through better muscle and some throw better fat, and some do both."
He said for the betterment of the betterment of the breed, he doesn't scan big numbers per day, focussing on muscle pattern and sire groups.
"In my opinion there are already sheep out their that have muscle and fat along with an above average wool cut," Mr Power said.
"I believe those type of sheep, certainly on the Tablelands and the Monaro, are untapped."
Dr Mortimer said the DPI research will not only benefit Merino breeding programs, it will contribute to lamb meat production in general.
"Merinos have a significant impact on the Australian lamb industry either as a direct source or through first-cross systems," Dr Mortimer said.
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