Breeding to beat drought

By Country News

Genetic selection for condition score (muscle and fat) is paying dividends during the drought, with Merino sheep able to handle the challenge for NSW farmer Chad Taylor.

The research was done by the Taylors, who are following some science from Mark Ferguson, of neXtgen Agri, showing that the sheep that maintained a higher level of condition also maintained a higher level of performance when put under pressure, such as drought conditions.

During the research, unfed stud (spring lambing) ewes scanned 151 per cent in-lamb in May during the second driest 12 months on record on the Taylors’ Wellington property.

Within the autumn lambing mob, 129 per cent of lambs were marked to ewes joined with 100 per cent survival from marking to weaning despite the drought.

Chad and his wife Louise have recorded just 75mm of rain this year, on the back of a failed spring.

‘‘Condition score maintains production when the pressure is on, with drought being a serious pressure for the stock,’’ Mr Taylor said.

‘‘When combined with lambing in a dry period, it is extreme pressure so the animals with the genetic reserve of body condition score through muscle and fat, are the sheep that will continue performing.’’

To increase genetic gain in fat and muscle, the Taylors have used one of the nation’s most elite Merino rams, Moojepin 120652, as an AI and natural joining sire for 350 stud ewes.

More than 60 young rams sired by Moojepin 120652 will be offered by the Taylors (Mumblebone stud) at the annual on-property sale on October 10.

The Taylors will hold a field day on Tuesday, September 11 in conjunction with the 12 Mile Stud Tour, which will present more than 700 rams for inspection by six studs, all within 20 minutes of each other.

Participating studs are Allendale, Coddington Uardry, Boxleigh Park, Mumblebone, Glenwood and Gunnegalderie.