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Linked data from trials gives breeders the right oil

Linked data from trials gives breeders
Gowan Braes extends 8km from the homestead to the back of the farm rising from 270m to about 620 metres above sea level.

The genetic traits of perendale sheep are enthusiastically touted by farmers loyal to the hardy breed, but collaboration between breeders has also added much to the national flock, Perendale Sheep Society of New Zealand president Mike McElrea says.

The society has 49 registered breeders running 20,000 registered ewes. Perendale were originally bred in 1956 by Sir Geoffrey Peren at Massey University by crossing a Cheviot over a Romney. During the past decade, perendales have been the subject of considerable trial work, part of a bigger picture for New Zealand sheep breeds.

The Perendale NZ Progeny Trial, started in 2010, aimed to identify some of the nation’s leading perendale sires with superior growth and meat quality attributes from the 20,000 registered and recorded ewes.

Keys outcomes included higher meat yields from a breed which already provided good yields and dispelling a myth that perendale meat was high in pH.

Mike, who owns Gowan Braes Perendale Stud in West Otago, explains the progeny trial transitioned into the Next Generation Trial, which is focused on maternal traits, facial eczema and worm faecal egg count, three and-a-half years ago “The two trials have been linked by sires.

The New Zealand Progeny Trial finished when the Next Generation trial started, but they were overlapped by a year, so the data was linked.

“The Next Generation trial is actually a Beef and Lamb New Zealand (BLNZ) Genetics trial in partnership with Smedley Station and Perendale NZ.”

The Next Generation trial is linked to the Central Progeny Test, (CPT) funded by BLNZ and launched in 2002 to pool and evaluate rams of all breeds from across the industry.

“Two sires out of the Next Generation trial will go to the CPT trial each following year. “The biggest thing about the trials is the linkages. The SIL figures don’t actually work if the studs and breeds aren’t linked.

“The only way to link them is by using rams in a trial; it gives the perendale breed really good linkages for our across-flock analysis.” Mike has been involved with perendales for nearly 30 years.

During that time their fertility, survival, growth rates, lambing ease and parasite resistance have continued to improve. “Perendale has very good natural resistance to parasites, it’s something in the breed from day one.

I have clients who don’t drench ewes at all.” Perendale wool also attracts a small premium and farmers are showing some optimism that wool is an answer for a world plagued by synthetics, he says.

Linked data from trials gives breeders

Drafting at Gowan Braes Perendale Stud, West Otago. Two tooth rams (top right) and Perendale Sheep Society NZ president Mike McElrea busy tagging.

“I think people are starting to become aware of it.” Mike is currently in his fourth year as president of Perendale NZ and has enjoyed connecting with people from all walks of life in the wider sheep industry and attending shows and ram sales.

A tour of Manuwatu and Wairarapa in May with Perendale Sheep Society of New Zealand members showcased the diversity of the breed and their ability to perform across a wide variety of landscape on farms visited.

One example is that SIL’s latest genetic trend graphs show the national flock average for all breeds for maternal worth (reproduction, survival, growth, adult size, wool) is about 1400 compared to the average for perendale at 1800. In practical terms, the higher maternal worth means an average of $4 more per sheep, Mike says.

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