Meat & Livestock Australia’s (MLA) Sheep Genetics program included a record 190190,000 parentage and higher density genotypes were processed between July 2021 and June 2022, according to the Sheep Genetics 2021–22 Annual Outcomes Report released by MLA.
According to Peta Bradley, Manager of Sheep Genetics for MLA, borders reopening after COVID-included restrictions meant that more events could be held and attended by producers around the country.
“We have achieved a lot this year in delivering our service to clients. In particular, MLA has been focused on improving our genetic evaluation as well as working with producers to drive genetic progress within the sheep industry.
“Throughout FY22 we engaged with over 1,000 seedstock and commercial producers at events hosted or supported by Sheep Genetics.
“The efforts of our clients have contributed to doubling the rate of genetic gain across all the standard indexes for all analyses,” said Ms Bradley.
During 2021–22, Sheep Genetics experienced growth in both number of new clients as well as additional flocks with existing clients. There are now currently 1,187 member flocks in Sheep Genetics.
With the huge growth in membership over the last few years, Sheep Genetics developed a New Member workshop.
These online workshops are run regularly and are targeted at helping new members get started with genetic evaluations, including what information is needed to calculate Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) and how results are accessed.
As part of this year’s analysis enhancements implemented in May 2022, MLA launched the redeveloped Sheep Genetics database. The database contains valuable information on pedigree, on-farm and research data that is used to generate ASBVs from the LAMBPLAN, MERINOSELECT, KIDPLAN and DOHNE evaluations.
The implementation of the database redevelopment as well as the other analysis enhancements for 2022 were done as part of an MLA project with the Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit (AGBU). Sheep Genetics works closely alongside AGBU in the delivery of the national genetic evaluation.
Between 2021 and 2022, LAMBPLAN membership increased by 9.8% and MERINOSELECT membership had an increase of 6%. The LAMBPLAN membership included both maternal and terminal breed types, while the MERINOSELECT membership included both Merino and DOHNE breed types.
Selection index are an important tool to drive genetic improvement in breeding programs, particularly where there are a range of traits of economic or functional importance.
In 2021–2022, all reported indexes increased across all major analyses. There was also notable improvement in the genetic trend for key trait groups including:
- improved reproduction trend, with the introduction of Weaning Rate in Merinos and Maternals
- improved intramuscular fat and shear force while continuing to improve lean meat yield in Terminals
- further reduction in early breech wrinkle in Merinos
- improved growth across all analyses.
Ms Bradley commended the Sheep Genetics team and producers for all their hard work this year.
“Thank you to everyone who contributed to the Sheep Genetics program over the past year. We look forward to working with you over the next 12 months,” said Ms Bradley.