Welcome to the South Australian Merino Sire Evaluation Trial. The Merino Sire Evaluation (MSE) is a progeny testing program that has been running since 1989 and currently operates at 9 sites located across Australia. MSE is managed by the Australian Merino Sire Evaluation Association (AMSEA) and is largely funded by ram breeders through entry fees, along with industry funding provided by AWI and a large amount of in-kind support from site committees, site hosts and service providers.
Within South Australia the MSE is administered by Merino SA with a site committee comprising Merino SA members, industry service providers and the host property. Merino Sire Evaluation is centered on evaluating progeny from a range of rams under common management conditions. The trial design is generally determined by the management program of the host property (e.g. shearing time), as well as the stages that entrants are wishing to have measurements and assessments recorded for.
Some activities are obvious in their timing, e.g. greasy fleece weight is undertaken at shearing, whilst others are more flexible. Carcase measurements (eye muscle depth and fat) are examples of traits that may be measured and assessed at any number of stages, however are only required to be undertaken once during the trial.
MSE sites require a classed, even line of ewes that represents the typical ‘type’ run in the area of which the site is located in. This is important for local ram breeder and wool grower engagement.
An equal allocation of ewes must be joined to each sire in a trial. The ewes must be randomly allocated. In SA, this has typically been 16 rams joined via AI to 60 ewes/ram (960 ewes total), however the number of rams joined can be discussed further if the total ewe base needs to be reduced. Depending on AI success rate it is expected there will be approximately 30-40 progeny per sire to evaluate. The base ewes will need to be visually identified and, if dam pedigree is to be recorded, electronically identified as well.
A high standard of sheep management is critical to ensure a successful MSE trial. This provides confidence in the results. But most importantly, a high standard of care supports our industry’s commitment to ensuring animal welfare. The sheep that form the basis of the trial should be given every opportunity to demonstrate genetic potential and provide variation in the analysis. Therefore both over feeding (including very low stocking rates) and under feeding (including very high stocking rates) need to be avoided. AMSEA advises the use of the relevant Lifetime Wool Regional Guidelines (www.lifetimewool.com.au/guidelines) along with the Making More From Sheep resources (www.makingmorefromsheep.com.au) to assist in managing the trial sheep.
There are no specific requirements regarding the management of diseases or parasites. However, it is assumed that site hosts will maintain an animal health program equivalent to best industry practice. The animal health program will be suitable for the location including vaccinating, drenching, dipping and/or foot bathing as necessary. It should be noted that the measurement of Worm Egg Count (WEC) is a requirement of MSE trials so consideration of this is advised when planning the animal health program.
The use of supplementary feeding to maintain appropriate condition scores may be necessary. It is the site committee and site owner’s responsibility to identify this and decide on an appropriate feeding program. Sites are again referred to www.lifetimewool.com.au for more information. It is important to report the details of any supplementary feeding within the Site Report.
All progeny should be managed in one mob for the period of the trial from 14 days after the lambing period has ended (when sire groups or lambing groups are boxed together). This is to ensure progeny are all given equivalent conditions and to negate any environmental difference that may affect progeny performance.
The only exceptions to this are:
Hosting a sire evaluation site is an opportunity for Merino breeders to evaluate a range of leading genetics first hand, in their specific environment and over their ewe base. For producers looking to change bloodline or type, it is an opportunity to see which genetics work.
For those that are not, it is an opportunity to benchmark their own genetics against progeny of leading sires to see how they compare. Sire evaluation hosts are also exposed to new ideas, technology and influential people that will add value to their business and improve profitability.
Finally, being part of a sire evaluation committee is a great networking and social experience that many say even outweigh the benefits of improving their operation’s genetics.
Anna Cameron, Site Coordinator
mob: 0403 747 332
Roger Fiebig, Site Chairman
mob: 0407 568 786
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