Craig Wilson, Wilson and Associates, Wagga Wagga, and Matthew Coddington, Roseville Park Merino stud, Dubbo, judging on the second day of the Crookwell Flock Ewe Competition last week. They inspected 23 flocks.

Don’t waste best Merino rams on maiden ewes

Growers have been told that joining their best rams to older ewes will ensure they get the most progeny.

“Don’t join young Merino rams to maiden ewes” was one of the key messages from the two judges as they inspected the 23 flocks in this year’s Crookwell Flock Ewe Competition.

Leading Merino genetic consultant, Craig Wilson, Craig Wilson and Associates, Wagga Wagga, and leading studmaster and classer, Matthew Coddington, Roseville Park stud, Dubbo, spent two days last week judging the flocks of maiden ewes across the Crookwell region.

A large crowd - around 80 people at some farms - followed the judges to hear comments about each entry along with their views on breeding and management.

At the end of the tour Mr Wilson apologised if he had been too abrupt at times but said he had only been trying to make people think about some of the key issues involved in improving Merino flock profitability.

He said the youngest and best rams (ideally the same animals) should be joined with older ewes because they would produce around double the number of progeny than if they were mated with the maidens.

Maidens had lower lambing rates (around 80 per cent) and needed a higher percentage of rams at joining because of their much shorter ovulation periods compared with older ewes.

So older ewes offered the best return on investment from the purchase of better young sires, Mr Wilson said.    

“Join your lesser rams to the maiden ewes.

“If you have a $2000 ram, join him where he will get the most number of lambs.”

Mr Coddington agreed that joining young rams with older ewes produced the best result but urged growers to give their maiden ewes every chance to get in lamb through good nutrition and care.

He also warned commercial growers against breeding their own rams, saying the practice slowed genetic improvement in the flock.

The gains achieved in seven years using home-bred rams could be slashed to three years using genetics from top performing Merino studs, Mr Coddington said.

Mr Wilson said most growers were better advised to “slip onto the coat-tails of a stud on the go”.

He said he was frustrated with the slow uptake of the most profitable genetics which had been identified in major ram and wether evaluation trials.

Having been involved in a number of major wether trials, Mr Wilson said the results had revealed 60 per cent of the difference in net profitability was due to genetics (which can equate to $150 a ha in net profit).

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