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Breech wrinkle tool to help beat flystrike
Sep '09
The first breeding values for breech wrinkle will be launched by Sheep Genetics. This is a major achievement that will greatly help the industry in its efforts to breed sheep that can be managed safely without mulesing. Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) for breech wrinkle allow farmers to identify, select and breed from sheep that have improved natural resistance to flystrike.

The ASBV for Early Breech Wrinkle gives Merino sheep producers the potential to fast-track their progress to reduce breech wrinkle in their flocks. As breech wrinkle is strongly associated with flystrike, selecting rams with low Early Breech Wrinkle ASBVs will contribute to progeny with enhanced natural resistance to breech flystrike.

This is the result of five years of intensive investment in research and breeding initiatives across the country. It is indicative of the enormous and ongoing commitment of the industry to address this complex health and welfare problem and a further illustration of Australian sheep producers' investment in enhancing flystrike prevention alternatives.

The research was funded by Australian Wool Innovation and Meat and Livestock Australia, together with Australian Merino Sire Evaluation Association and the Sheep CRC.

Sheep with favourable Early Breech Wrinkle ASBVs have demonstrated less susceptibility to flystrike. However, research has also shown the relationship between breech wrinkle and fleece weight must be carefully managed, so as to prevent associated negative production effects. This can be achieved through fleece weight and staple length ASBVs, with environmental effects also an important factor.

'AWI research has shown that animals with a breech wrinkle score of two or less have significantly reduced incidence of flystrike,' Sheep Genetics manager Sam Gill said.

'It is still sheep breeders who make the choice to develop sheep suitable for their own environment and production system. It is also important that ram breeders use wrinkle ASBVs to select rams as there are some significant effects of sex, birth type, dam and age that could bias selection if not handled effectively,' Sam added.

The accuracy of early breech wrinkle ASBVs has been validated with up to 10 years of research data (more than 15,000 records) that has found a strong association between breech and body wrinkle. Research has also shown highly wrinkled lambs tend to remain so throughout their lives. Sheep Genetics aims to produce one single breeding value for wrinkle that uses information from both early and later life measurement.

Breech and body wrinkle scores have been collated from various industry sources such as the Sheep CRC Information Nucleus Flocks, Merino Sire Evaluation sites, MERINOSELECT members and AWI breech flocks.

The development of these recent breeding values for more than 300 industry sires follows the Visual Sheep Scores Guide published by AWI and MLA earlier this year.

AWI CEO Brenda McGahan will launch the ASBV followed by a presentation by Sam Gill, manager of Sheep Genetics on the technical details of the ASBV and how to interpret the breeding value.

Australian Wool Innovation

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