Seven years of dedicated research as part of the Pingelly Merino Lifetime Productivity (MLP) Project culminated in a final field day at The University of Western Australia's Farm Ridgefield in late 2022.
The event attracted a crowd of about 80 researchers and farmers to hear preliminary results from the project and get one last look at the sheep involved in the trial.
The Australian Wool Innovation (AWI)-funded and Australian Merino Sire Evaluation Association-facilitated MLP project, supported by Murdoch University, UWA, and the Federation of Performance Sheep Breeders along with the Site Committee, has run at UWA Farm Ridgefield since 2015.
Image: Presenters and stakeholders at the Pingelly MLP final field day.
Murdoch University Senior Research Fellow and MLP Pingelly Site Manager Dr Bronwyn Clarke said the ewe progeny born in 2016 and 2017 from 29 diverse Merino sires have now been evaluated for their lifetime productivity.
“Ewes were visually classed each year and had measurements taken for weight, condition score, wool quality, fleece weight, fat and eye muscle depth,” Dr Clarke said.
“Additionally, the ewes have been naturally mated each year and had their reproductive performance evaluated in terms of conception rate, number of lambs weaned and the weaning weight of their lambs.”
The field day was chaired by Site Committee Chair Brett Jones, who introduced a line-up of speakers including Dr Clarke, the University of New England’s Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit (AGBU) scientists Professor Daniel Brown, Dr Peter Wahinya and Dr Sam Walkom, as well as AWI’s Genetics Program Manager Geoff Lindon and MLP Project Manager Anne Ramsay.
Image: Watching Dr Bronwyn Clarke present in Avery's Sheering Shed.
In her presentation, Dr Clarke explained how early flock breeding values a good predictor of lifetime performance for wool and growth traits were, but reproduction traits weren’t as well predicted by just one or two measurements.
“Even though the project is coming to an end, the wool industry can look forward to the analysis and presentation of the results of such an important project continuing over the next four years,” she said.
The AGBU presentations continued the reproduction theme looking at the effects of past reproductive performance on wool, growth, and body composition in the subsequent year and then the production traits influencing weaning rate breeding value.
They also talked about how the MLP data nationally would impact breeding value estimation and the review of MERINOSELECT Indexes currently taking place.
Mr Lindon wrapped up the formal presentations outlining next steps for the MLP analysis.