Ten years ago, no one envisaged just how valuable Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s (B+LNZ) Central Progeny Test would be to New Zealand’s sheep industry.
Launched in June 2002, the CPT, as it is widely known, helps farmers identify rams that are superior for traits important to their operation.
The "how" behind the CPT is surprisingly simple: compare rams by running their progeny in identical environments.
In that way, differences between progeny performance can only be due to their genetics, not their environment.
B+LNZ Geneticist Mark Young says the CPT was revolutionary when it was launched, but has become even more important to the industry in the past seven years, since the establishment of SIL’s Advanced Central Evaluation (SIL-ACE).
"During the past 10 years, farmers have become a lot more savvy about how they choose rams. The CPT has played a big part in that change.
It’s responsible for terms like ‘meat yield’, ‘FE tolerance’ and ‘number of lambs born’ becoming part of our everyday farming vocabulary.
"The CPT has made rams’ genetic data more relevant to farmers and generated healthy debate about which traits are commercially important.
"And now, through SIL-ACE, we’re able to extract genetic information we’d only dreamed of generating back in 2002.
We can find out which flocks are recording different traits - through SIL’s FlockFinder tool - and compare the genetics of animals in different flocks - through SIL’s RamFinder tool.
This makes SIL-ACE an incredibly powerful resource for farmers. However, it can only do this thanks to the good old CPT providing critical connections to join up a large number of flocks. Without that, SIL-ACE would be nowhere near as grunty as it is."
B+LNZ General Manager Farm, Richard Wakelin, says the CPT has four objectives: to identify sources of high-performing rams; develop genetic measures for specific traits; foster links between ram breeders; and provide a genetic resource for improving the profitability of the industry.
"CPT also underpins Ovita’s science programme. I’m not just talking about the high quality of genetic data it provides. I’m also talking about the role it plays in pulling the industry together.
Through the CPT, groups whose paths may not have crossed in the past, now work together with common goals such as a determination to see genetic technologies become commercially viable.
The CPT is the glue in the equation."
Over the past decade, 234 rams have been evaluated, with about 20 new rams entering the CPT annually.
Ram breeders nominate rams for inclusion and these animals and their progeny are then farmed across three controlled locations: Poukawa in Hawke’s Bay, Ashley Dene in Canterbury and Woodlands in Southland.
Every year, the CPT publishes a list of the top 25 rams against key breeding value traits and indexes of overall economic merit.
The Kelso stud has a long history of supplying rams to the CPT. Matt Holden of Kelso describes the CPT as the ultimate level playing field for sires.
"When you measure progeny performance, what you see is what you get and that’s really important. Sometimes there is too much emotion tied up in the breeding of animals. But not with the CPT - it’s totally objective and unbiased."
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