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Peter Westblade delivers benchmarks for Merino improvement
31
Aug '12
Objective genetic data delivered from benchmarking trials is bolstering the farm productivity and improving the wool cut for Yass Merino breeders Sam and David Weir.

A team of 30 Merino wethers, from the Weirs' ‘Bertangles’ flock, was recently placed fourth out of 50 teams in the wool section of the prestigious Peter Westblade Memorial Merino Challenge. 

The Sheep CRC is pleased to support the Peter Westblade Memorial Merino Challenge (PWMMC). 
 
“I’ve always said that if you’re in the top third you’re probably heading in the right direction; if you are in the middle third you need to start asking questions; and if you’re in the bottom third you really have to change what you’re doing,” Mr Weir said.
 
“By being in the top 20% in this competition, I feel that we’re going places and I’m really very pleased if we rank better than that.”
 
The Peter Westblade Memorial Merino Challenge is Australia’s largest commercial evaluation of Merino genetics and has been designed to assist breeders to make more informed decisions about their genetics.
 
Trial convenor Craig Wilson, of Craig Wilson and Associates, said the challenge measured genetic differences between the different lines of sheep – all of the sheep are run together and treated exactly the same – so the results indicate the relative performance of a flock’s genetics and the impact that this has in running a profitable sheep business.
 
The current Challenge commenced in April 2010 after the lambs had been shorn to standardise wool length, before weighing and delivery to the Temora Agricultural Research and Advisory Station.
 
During the trial, the 50 teams of 30 Merino wethers from around Australia were measured regularly for a multitude of traits over a two-year period, including weight gain, fat score, skin, body wrinkle, wool fibre diameter, fleece weight, staple length and strength, and conformation.
 
The information recorded and the data analysis provided to producers highlights the financial opportunities on offer through the use of high-performance Merino genetics.
 
In 2012 Bertangles team recorded a fleece weight of 6.1kg, micron of 17.6 and yield of 63.9%. When combined with body weight measurements and market prices, an estimated total sheep value was calculated of $254.68/head.
 
“But it’s not really a competition for us,” Mr Weir said. “It’s benchmarking and the measurements taken are for your own analysis and bringing this knowledge back to your genetic selection."
 
 

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