Merino Breeding Programme

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The current breeding strategy at Forest Range is capable of decreasing MFD (Mean Fibre Diameter) by one micron every three years, while effectively keeping GFW (Greasy Fleece Weight) constant.

Over a 30 year period, a sophisticated computer system has been developed to record flock data. Automated equipment is utilised to streamline time consuming tasks and economise on labour inputs. Computer readable ear tags are used to provide further accuracy and integrity of data.

The breeding programme has been thoroughly researched and analysed by Massey University. To assess the breeding potential of elite sires and rams, an analysis programme known as BLUP (Best Lineal Unbiased Prediction) is used for indexing animals for selection. This is fully utilising the power of genetics.

Selection commenced in 1979. Objectively measured ewe hoggets (250,000 to date) have been the source for the open nucleus Elite Flock of some 1500 ewes. About 2000 ewe hoggets are screened as an annual resource for this Elite Flock – all are of Saxon super fine background. Imported stud ewes and rams and extensive use of New Zealand genetic material has been undertaken to evaluate progress.

Rams are sold as four tooths to our client base at the annual auction in early January.

The flock objectives are to produce maximum quantities and superior quality micro fine Merino wool by:

  • Reducing fibre diameter (micron)
  • Increasing clean fleece weigh
  • Reducing CV to reduce variability within the fleece and within the flock
  • Producing and maintaining structurally sound and healthy animals

Producing quality fibre with the following characteristics:

  • High tensile strength
  • Low VM
  • Good colour
  • Excellent structure character and definition of staple within the fleece

Key Operational Objectives:

  • Sustainable farm management practices
  • Sustainable financial security for the property and its clients

Massey University has done a breeding analysis report on the Forest Range breeding programme. The genetic improvement programme at Forest Range has been characterised by an unrivalled adoption of technology.

The heritabilities of mean fibre diameter and fleece weights are high (h2 MFD = 044, h2 CFW = 0.38, h2 CFW = 0.40)

The generic correlation between clean and greasy fleece weight at 0.93 is very close to a perfect correlation of unity. This indicates that selection from greasy fleece weight will be effective at improving clean fleece weight and vice versa.

The genetic correlation between fleece weights and mean fibre diameter are 0.26 (greasy) and 0.18 (clean). These correlations indicate that selection for finer wool based solely on MFD will have only a small effect on reducing fleece weight.

Selection on hogget characteristics will increase performance of subsequent crops of hoggets and increase performance of animals at later ages.

The heritability of lifetime records tends to be lower than that of the first hogget records.

Respectabilities are high (t MFD = 0.74, t GFW = 0.51 t CFW = 0.52). This implies that selection on hogget performance will be a reasonably good indicator of future lifetime performance.

Forest Range Merino breeding programme

Ewes and lambs, product of our extensive Merino breeding programme