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Media Release:Pooginook wethers come out on top in Merino challenge

WoolPoll Levy

23rd April 2012

A Pooginook-blood team of Merino wethers has dominated the nation’s biggest commercial Merino genetic evaluation trial.

The team entered by Eric and Dianne McKenzie, of Bethungra, in the northern Riverina, blitzed the field of 50 teams at the final shearing of the 2010-2012 Peter Westblade Memorial Merino Challenge.

Drawing teams of 30 wethers from commercial producers in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia, the challenge aimed to help Merino breeders make informed decisions on their genetics.

Challenge convenor Craig Wilson said the relative productivity of a Merino flock for economically important traits was demonstrated under equivalent conditions.

Wethers were randomly allocated into a wool and meat challenge, with the wool group evaluated over two years at the Temora Agricultural Research and Advisory Station, in southern NSW.

At the final shearing on March 8-9, Eric and Dianne McKenzie emerged as the most profitable team with a total sheep value (wool plus mutton value based on a five year average) of $272.93 a head – 20 per cent above the average.

The McKenzie’s team was $9.10 a head more profitable than the second placing Hazeldean-blood team of Tony Hill, Cootamundra, on $263.83/head.

Mr and Mrs McKenzie run 1750 Pooginook blood ewes on their 1200ha Bethungra property, Grasmere. They are among the few producers in the district to stick with Merinos, while others have introduced terminal rams to chase the lucrative prime lamb market.

"We use wether trials to benchmark our flock and we are always keen to learn something,’’ Mr McKenzie said. “I go to compare my sheep – not to be in the top 10 per cent. Everybody learns something about what or what not to do – even the top five entrants. This has confirmed we are on the right track but it is always a challenge.’’

Victorian woolgrowers Bruce and Julie Perry have used the challenge as a learning tool to fine tune their 2100-ewe Merino flock. The couple run a sheep and cropping enterprise at Bears Lagoon, in central Victoria, and had entered the challenge for the first time to benchmark their sheep. At the first shearing in April last year, their team of wethers had finished mid field. By the final shearing last month, their Pooginook-blood team had jumped to 12th placing with an overall sheep value of $242.69, performing well for fleece weight.

"The Pooginook sheep get better as they get older and keep their stylish wool,’’ Mr Perry said. “My adult ewes average 20-21 micron and are cutting 8-9kg of wool. I like big, plain bodied, easy care and fertile sheep. Each year Paul Kelly, of Quirindi, classes out 30-35 per cent of the maiden ewes.’’

Mr and Mrs Perry double shear their wethers and maiden ewes in April and October, and are considering including the adult ewes as well. “Our six monthly wool length is 65-70mm, we have a lot better staple strength, less vegetable matter and really good yields,’’ Mr Perry said.

Challenge convenor Craig Wilson said the top performing teams represented bloodlines committed to objective measurement. “The performance of these teams proves that objective data is an integral part of Merino sheep selection for increasing genetic profitability,’’ Mr Wilson said.

The challenge generates unbiased data with sheep measured for all the profitability traits except fertility.

 

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