Are your sheep 'fit for purpose'? was the question raised by Jim Meckiff, when he led the recent BredWell FedWell workshop at Collingullie.
Mr Meckiff is the principal of JM Livestock, a Wagga Wagga-based livestock breeding consultancy and he made the point that a sheep producer can have the most productive pastures but if their sheep genetics don't match the quality and productivity of the pasture, producers are missing out on potential income.
"You need to find out what works for you," he said.
"By understanding your country and your management ability, you will find the optimum type of sheep which is fit for your farm."
Mr Meckiff was highlighting traits such as fertility and weaning rate of the breeding ewe flock but also included in the breeding objectives.
"Cost of production is now more important than ever, so sound decisions, like having the breeding objectives which best suit your country and your interest and skills can mean making a small margin of profit or losing a lot of money," he said.
"We should also be aware that the selection of rams is very important as they can have a big impact on the performance of the flock."
Mr Meckiff made the point that the future productivity of a ram is not influenced by the environment in which it has been raised but by its genetic merit.
"What we see is not all genetics," he explained when looking at the penned rams.
"Often it is the environment in which it has been raised, or other non-genetic factors such as management and livestock husbandry."
But producers can make an informed decision when selecting rams by taking into consideration the available data on the individual animal.
"By making as accurate a decision as possible, producers can select the best more often," Mr Meckiff said.
"Not only are they good looking, but the superior rams have the better genetic package.
"When you are looking at the rams, remove the environmental factors and focus on the genetic differences."
Mr Meckiff said the use of Australian Sheep Breeding Values is allowing sheep producers to lift productivity on their farms, breeding sheep which are 'fit for purpose'.
"The figures predict what the progeny will do, not what the ram has done," he said.
"But if you want to make an investment in good genetics, you need to have made a commensurate investment in the health and management of your sheep, and your pastures to back it up."
Mr Meckiff said the use of ASBV's when choosing the ram goes 'hand in hand' with the visual assessment when deciding the best ram to lift your flock.
"You can use the figures to push your genetic gain, but you must have confidence in the data," he said.
"So we need to know that the data is as accurate as possible."
And that comment was confirmed by Craig Wilson, principal of Kentish Downs Poll Dorsets, Collingullie, and livestock breeding consultant with Craig Wilson and Associates, Wagga Wagga.
"Knowing the capacity of your genetics is a vital ingredient in determining long term profitability," he said.
"The use of benchmarking or estimated breeding values to help ascertain the relevant quality of those genetics is absolutely critical."
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