THE highly sought after traits of Dohne sheep are set to be assessed in the breed's first sire evaluation program.
The Australian Dohne Breeders' Association (ADBA) trial, hosted by Tom and Sophie Holt, Coonong Station, Urana began in January this year, with 1241 3.5-year-old pure Dohne ewes artificially inseminated to 15 sires.
The Coonong flock is run under the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) Animal Welfare program which adheres to the trial's mules-free status of breeding a plane, bare-breeched sheep.
The evaluation is being run with Australian Merino Sire Evaluation Association (AMSEA) and overseen by independent consultant Jim Meckiff of JM Livestock, Wagga Wagga, and it has the support of Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) through funding the link sires.
This sire evaluation will give the ADBA a chance to validate and give numeric credit to the breed's Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) of individual sires from across Australia as well as within flock breeding values (FBVs), with all progeny DNA verified, allowing valuable genomic data to be collected.
Sire evaluations began in 1989 and have been primarily focused on the evaluation of Merino sires over Merino ewes, but this is the first trial in Australia - and possibly the world - where Dohne ewes are being used to evaluate commercial Dohne values.
The trial will be conducted over three-and-a-half years and involves 15 sires - 13 Dohne and two Poll Merino - with Dohne sires from four states.
Three are from Western Australia, two from South Australia, two from Victoria and four from NSW.
The trial also features three link sires, including one Dohne ram from Allen Kelly's Glen Holme stud, which is also involved in the Merino Lifetime Productivity (MLP) at Balmoral, and will act as linkage between Dohnes and Merinos, helping validate the data received from the evaluation.
The other two link sires are Poll Merinos from Mumblebone and Anderson studs which have both been used over a number years in various evaluations.
"Using these link sires gives the Dohne site very direct linkage to some highly accurate breeding values for Merino genetics," Mr Meckiff said.
Lambing began in late June and tagging was done on July 12 and 13, with a number of traits - breech wrinkle and breech cover, skin and fibre pigment, black spot and recessive black (none) recorded using the AMSEA visual sheep score guide.
Each lamb has an electronic identification tag and matching VID tag, and they were DNA sampled with the tissue sample unit for 50K SNP analysis and sire pedigree, with sex and birth type recorded.
The lambs were marked in mid-August, at the same time as the commercial operation at Coonong Station, and weaning weights will be recorded later this month.
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The next assessment for the wethers will be mid side samples, classing and shearing in January. They'll be grown out in a feedlot, shorn and processed at approximately 10 months of age, then evaluated for growth rate and carcase traits - eye muscle, fat depth, lean meat yield and meat eating quality.
"In a Merino trial the wethers would be kept for longer, but with this trial they're going to be turned off early for carcase assessment, in line with normal commercial practices, and the ewes will be joined as hoggets to measure reproduction traits," Mr Meckiff said.
"This trial covers both sides of production from Dohnes, giving us the reproduction data that everybody wants, as well as the wether carcase assessment."
The ewe progeny will be shorn in July next year so that data around fleece traits can be measured at the yearling stage. In the second phase, the maiden daughters of the sires will then be joined and reproductive data will be collected.
"For commercial sheep enterprises, reproductive performance is key. This reproduction-focused evaluation will provide accurate data to speak to the Dohne's ability to produce a very high percentage of lambs with dual purpose qualities."
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Updates on the sire evaluation program will be shared with industry as evaluation phases conclude, with consideration that the process relies on accuracy and vigilance to ensure that results are viable and of value to sheep breeders across Australia.
The story Dohne breed's sire trial set to assess reproduction, carcase traits first appeared on The Land.