Breeder builds on Highlander genetics

Lessons learned in breeding pigs are being applied to sheep

Sheep
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An Inverleigh breeder is building on his successful Highlander sheep program.

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INNOVATIVE FARMER: Inverleigh sheep producer Martin Clark says he's applying the lessons learned in producing pigs to challenge historical beliefs about sheep breeding.

INNOVATIVE FARMER: Inverleigh sheep producer Martin Clark says he's applying the lessons learned in producing pigs to challenge historical beliefs about sheep breeding.

Inverleigh sheep producer Martin Clark has been using technology and know-how developed for the pig industry to challenge what he says are historical beliefs about sheep breeding.

Mr Clark, of Murnong Farming, is a finalist in the Marcus Oldham Flock Leader awards and now farms 1600-hectares in the region, after starting with Murnong, in 1998.

"In our business, we pride ourselves on innovation and being able to share knowledge through our efforts to be the best at what we do," Mr Clark said.

"We are a mixed, diverse farming operation with the aim of suiting variability in the Australian climate and commodity price fluctuations.

We are a mixed, diverse farming operation with the aim of suiting variability in the Australian climate and commodity price fluctuations. - Martin Clark

"We are always undertaking trials on various methods and products, both in-house and as part of the greater farming network."

Murnong Farming supplies industry-leading genetics for maternal and terminal sheep for commercial breeders, through ram and semen sales for the prime lamb industry.

"The maternal sheep, known as Highlanders, are a composite sheep breed," Mr Clark said.

They were developed by Rissington and the systems and science behind the breed provide the foundation for its strong performance across commercial farms in New Zealand.

The focus of the Highlander is to consistently deliver improved kilograms of lamb weaned.

This is achieved through higher performance as a ewe hogget and then maintaining a higher level of production from a two-tooth onward.

"Bred to give the most profitable return to commercial farmers by producing a larger number of healthy lambs with highly productive and survivability traits, the proof is in the paddock," Mr Clark said.

Murnong also provides meat-eating quality terminal genetics for sheep known as Primera.

These were created to compliment the Highlander ewes and to be joined as part of a system in the most profitable prime lamb operations.

"Primera sheep can be used just as effectively as many other breeds, depending on the producer's objectives," Mr Clark said.

"This breed has all the attributes of the Highlander but with reduced wool micron aimed at 22 to 23 microns.

"Our sheep are benchmarked with Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs).

"But several of our traits are in advance of the industry benchmark system, so the true value is not expressed using these industry comparisons."

Mr Clark said Murnong was the only genetic producer he was aware of that guaranteed year-on-year genetic gain.

He said the business had recently released the Highlander Plus.

"This has been under development for three years," he said.

Born in Swan Hill, Mr Clark said his family background was in farming in the Riverina region.

Murnong also breeds pigs, producing stock for the Otway Pork brand and several wholesale and retail outlets.

"These pigs are bred in a free-range breeding unit," he said.

"Genetics are sourced from PIC, the world's leading pig improvement company that carries out full genetic analysis.

"Our knowledge of genetic development in the pig industry is what we have to taken into the sheep industry."

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