EAST LODDON SHEEP
Our breeding aims and direction have been developed by stepping back and evaluating what makes a profitable merino enterprise …
Increasing income with:
- High fleece cut which is made up of white, soft and bold crimping highly aligned fibres. A true free growing wool.
- Highly fertile animals to lift weaning percentages
- High growth rate with excellent carcase attributes to maximise return on wethers and surplus ewes
Lowering cost of production:
- Reducing the instance of flystrike with easy care plain body SRS type
- Increasing the level of genetic fat and eye muscle depth on the animal makes them more robust and able to handle the harsh conditions which are a reality in the Australian environment. Get back in lamb.
- A wool which keeps dust out in the dry years and water out when it rains.
How E/L sheep are performing:
Shearing averages from the 6,500 East Loddon commercial ewe flock over the last three shearings: (Figures adjusted for 12 months growth)
|Nov 2012||Apr 2013||Dec 2013|
The average of 131mm growth over 12 months allows for the option for shearing more than once a year. Currently we are shearing every 8-6 months or three times every two years.
Since implementing the SRS breeding system we have seen our average micron fall from 22mic to 19.4 mic on an animal with no wrinkle. With this system there is no need to worry about fleece weight loss when dropping micron and losing wrinkle, proven by an average of 7.3kg per ewe over the entire 6,500 commercial flock.
Surplus sheep sales
By selecting for a high growth rate animal we have seen East Loddon sheep sell exceptionally well:
Surplus young ewe sales:
Oct 2013 – 632 ewes sold privately for $140
Oct 2012 – 439 ewes sold for $160 at Hay sale yards
Oct 2011 – 531 ewes topped Hay sale at $205
Nov 2011 – 211 sold privately for $190
Feb 2012 – 260 sold for $95
July 2012 – 995 wether lambs $97.50
How we are achieving these results.
With Dr. Jim Watts strictly classing the East Loddon sheep using his SRS breeding system we have seen the wool leap forward as seen above.
We are selecting for:
This is amplified by a high crimp amplitude (deep crimp) and low crimp frequency (bold crimp).
Free Growing high density wools:
It must be an extremely free growing high density wool, meaning fibres are highly aligned and packed into numerous small fibre bundles. If the fleece has many cross fibres (or entangled fibres) this results in the fleece being hard to open. This may feel that there are more fibres in the fleece, however it is the opposite. Fibres which are highly aligned allow your finger tips to open the fleece with ease. Highly aligned fibres are a result from selecting for high fibre density. For an example, a stack of 10 criss-crossed corrugated iron sheets will sit much higher than a stack of 10 sheets which has its corrugations sitting inside one another.
A high density wool comes from numerous follicle groups in the sheeps skin which produce fibre bundles. These fibre bundles contain a high population of closely packed wool fibres. As the population of follicles increase the fibres become more aligned.
Fibres being highly aligned with a bold crimp creates a thatching effect on the surface of the fleece, preventing dust penetration and enabling the shedding of water. Combined with high nourishment, the resulting wool is extremely white and soft.
Producing a fleece with the above attributes translates into increased profits through higher yields and heavier fleece weights.
East Loddon aims to produce a long, deep and plain bodied animal with an open face. Selecting for traits including eye muscle, fat depth, growth rate and no wrinkle results in an easy care animal.
The sheep is naturally resistant to fly strike due to having no wrinkle and a fleece which prevents water penetration.
Selecting for high growth rates results in:
- Higher weaning weights – enabling earlier weaning.
- More lambs weaned.
- Wethers and surplus ewes marketable earlier.
- Maiden ewes reach target weight easier for first joining.
Selecting for eye muscle depth:
- Increases meat yield.
- High condition score maintained.
- Research has shown an increase in lambing percentage. 6 more lambs per 100 ewe for 1mm of yearling eye muscle depth.
Selecting for fat depth:
- Ewes and progeny cope with fluctuating environments due to a bigger fuel tank of stored fat.
- Enables ewes to conceive and lambs to survive in tougher years.
- Sheep maintain body weight.
An annual visual classing of all young ewes and mature ewes and rams pre joining is carried out with our breeding consultant Dr. Jim Watts. We place a high importance on the visual assessment of structural soundness and wool type.
Assisting with our selection are Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBV’s) provided by MERINOSELECT. ASBVs give us a better understanding of the true genetic potential of our sheep and also allow us, and others, to benchmark that genetic potential against all other breeders utilising MERINOSELECT. This means East Loddon genetics can be selected with more confidence.
To produce ASBVs all of the East Loddon stud sheep are rigorously measured on farm for key traits. These include growth rate, carcase fat depth, eye muscle depth and a number of fleece characteristics.
We have always selected for the animals that handle tough conditions. When we first started measuring muscle and fat depth we noticed an obvious relationship that the more robust animals had greater muscle and fat depths. That relationship has also been proven by a number of industry researchers. With all sheep now measured for those traits and analysed through MERINOSELECT we are able to select for those traits more accurately and produce a more robust animal that will thrive in the tough conditions.