A MERINO breeding flock built on superior genetics selected with the help of Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) is transforming a business traditionally associated with cattle production.
Broughton Park near Spalding in the Mid North of South Australia, has been in the Trengove family for nearly 100 years and is well known as the home of the Broughton Park Shorthorn Stud.
However, with the recent sale of the Shorthorn herd and the next generation of the Trengoves taking up the reins, Broughton Park is moving into a new era focusing on sheep and cropping enterprises.
“We learnt from experience with the Shorthorns that by selecting animals with the use of breeding values, much faster genetic gain could be achieved and those studs that were not involved quickly got left behind,” Tom Trengove said.
“Our experience with the Shorthorn Group Breedplan gives us confidence to use ASBVs in our ram selection. We know that by using ASBVs the traits that we select for in the rams will show up in the progeny. What we breed for is what we get.”
ASBVs are calculated by MERINOSELECT and LAMBPLAN to compare the genetic potential of animals independent of their environment and location.
When used as a tool in conjunction with visual assessment of animals, ASBVs can provide sheep producers more certainty when buying rams and accelerate the improvement in their flock.
Broughton Park is currently operated by Glen and Lindley Trengove, together with their sons, Tom and Sam, and Sam’s wife Rachel.
Tom, who concentrates on the sheep whilst Sam looks after the cropping operation, said sheep have always been run on Broughton Park but numbers were currently being expanded.
“We currently run about 1700 ewes joined to a mixture of Merino and White Suffolk rams,” Tom said. “Our aim is to increase this to 2000, of which 1500 will be joined to Merinos.”
Every year both Merino and White Suffolk rams are purchased at on-property sales in the Mid North, Eyre Peninsula and South East areas of South Australia. Whilst all the White Suffolk rams the Trengoves purchase each year have ASBVs published in the sale catalogue, it’s not always the case with Merinos.
“We would prefer that all rams we bought had ASBVs, however at the moment in Merinos that is not always the case and sometimes we have to compromise,” Tom said.
“We would definitely be prepared to pay more for rams from a stud that has the same breeding objective as ours and actively uses the technology of ASBVs, as we would be buying them with the confidence that they were going to add to our profitability.”
The Broughton Park Merino breeding program is aimed at delivering big, plain-bodied Merinos, producing high-quality wool.
To achieve this, Tom focuses on breeding values for fibre diameter, clean fleece weight, body weight and uses the Dual Purpose index as an initial drafting gate when selecting rams.
“Our crossbred lamb operation is all about meat production and traits like post-weaning weight (PWT), fat (PFAT) and eye muscle depth (PEMD) are things that you can’t see when you first look at a ram,” Tom said.
“ASBVs give us the confidence that a ram has the genes to provide his progeny with those traits we are looking for.”
“Because there aren’t ASBVs for wool quality, we use a balanced approach between visual selection and using ASBVs.”
* An in-depth case study of the Trengove operation is available on the Sheep CRC website at www.sheepcrc.org.au
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