Case Studies Livestock

Producers excited for second round of DNA Flock Profile testing

Craig and Anna-Lisa Newman

DNA Flock Profile testing has provided such powerful genetic insights that Western Australian Merino breeders Anna-Lisa and Craig Newman from ‘Karradale’ in the far south of the state that they’ve decided to test again.

`The couple first undertook a DNA Flock Profile test in 2018 to benchmark their genetic base and are now repeating the process to measure the impact of the ram selections they made as a result of the initial test.

Situated outside the town of Varley, ‘Karradale’ is an 8,500-hectare mixed enterprise farm where the Newman’s grow crops as well as mate 5000 Merino ewes, both for wool and meat.

“The results of the first test told us that our fleece weights and staple length probably needed improvement so we have been using RamSelect to ensure the rams we are using would boost those traits,” Anna-Lisa Newman explained.

Developed by the former Sheep CRC, the Flock Profile test is now supplied to industry through Neogen Australasia.

The test provides a set of genetic measures for benchmarking a flock against industry averages. The data is displayed in to assist buyers in selecting rams to better meet their breeding objectives.

The DNA Flock Profile test involves randomly sampling 20 young ewes from a commercial flock. It uses genetic links with animals of known breeding values from the industry’s Information Nucleus database to estimate the genetic basis of the commercial flock.

Anecdotally, Mrs Newman says she can see their flock is gaining ground since their 2018 DNA Flock Profile test set a benchmark.

“Staple length is easiest for us to measure, I have been taking samples when we shear so I can see it is improving and we are seeing much better lengths,” she said.

“We have also shifted our ram team from the 80th percentile in fleece weight to the 50th in two years so that in itself is pretty impressive.

“I look at RamSelect before I go to a ram sale just to make sure we are continuing in the right direction.”

RamSelect is an online tool designed to simplify the use of Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) to identify the right genetics for any flock using data from Sheep Genetics.

RamSelect quickly searches data sources like MERINOSELECT, LAMBPLAN and DOHNE, cross-references the results with rams listed for sale and selects the genetics that align with the breeding objectives identified by the producer.

Far from being the end of the family’s foray into genetic testing, Mrs Newman said they now planned to profile their flock regularly.

“We are about to undertake our second Flock Profile test and we are excited to see the data around exactly how much improvement we are making.

“We also want to make sure we aren’t going too far in one direction, we know that if we push too hard for certain traits, we might start to lag on others, so we want to avoid that issue as well.”Ongoing dry seasons in the WA Wheatbelt continue to put pressure on the Newman family but Anna-Lisa said it’s been good to be able to feel in control of genetic advancements.

“We can’t make it rain but we can be sure that the effort we are putting into our flock is paying off.”

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Source: Neogen Australasia