Spring 2016 Newsletter

We have finally made it into the spring after a pretty difficult 12 months.
This time last year we had the warnings of a high probability of a very strong El Nino bringing a nasty drought.
It certainly remained dry after the deluge in mid-September which dealt to many of the later lambing ewe flocks but except for those in North Canterbury most of us seemed to have dodged a bullet.
However, come the autumn many of us on the East Coast slipped into a drought and feed covers remained tight right through until the end of this September.
I was out of all trading stock by May, applied nitrogen everywhere and was over 50% down on my cattle numbers so as to sneak through.
I credit formal feed budgeting and in particular Farmax for giving me an early heads up and allowing the confidence to use the management tools I did so as to get through.
Getting back into cattle has been problematic given the very high prices despite a falling schedule and the likelihood it will fall further once killable cattle start coming forward.
And then there was the autumn facial eczema challenge but more of that later.

Sheep Improvement Ltd. (SIL) Changes

Beef+lamb NZ Genetics which runs SIL has recently upgraded the SIL genetic evaluation.
This will provide with more timely information and much higher quality genetic data to assist in decision making.
They will now run a single weekly NZ Genetic Evaluation (NZGE) that involves all active SIL flocks (as opposed to just those of us that opted in) and those non-active flocks that provide useful information on pedigree and performance.
This now means that the evaluation uses all relevant data available in all SIL flocks and there is now only ‘one version of the truth’ in terms of a set of breeding values (BV’s) for animals.
This will have little impact on Marlow as I was already using industry standard and recommended BV’s as evidenced by the asterisk on the selection sheets provided to you at ram selection time.
But it will make information provided more accurate.

Now that there is one estimate of genetic merit across all flocks, there is an opportunity to have standard indexes available for commercial farmers at ram selection.
Marlow clients will notice little difference as the ‘new’ core traits are what I’ve been reporting anyway.
These are Reproduction, Survival, Growth, Adult Size and Wool and should now be on the selection lists of all SIL flocks whatever the breed.
The standard index will now be called ‘NZ Maternal Worth’ or NZMW which in the past we called Dual Purpose Production (DPP).
The terminal breeder’s lists are now called NZ Terminal Worth (NZTW) and include Survival, Growth and Meat Yield.
Because it is mandatory for Coopworth breeders to also record meat properties, I have for many years, ultrasound scanned all the ram lambs and send a number to Lincoln for CT scanning so Marlow lists will continue to also include Meat Yield.
So my selection sheets will be headed as MW+M (Maternal Worth + Meat).
Marlow selection lists will also include the sub trait Facial Eczema (DPX) but this is not added to the overall index but there for those clients with an interest in building FE tolerance in their flocks.
I will attach my latest selection list of the current sale rams so that you can see what I’m talking about. This list includes dam’s latest lambing and ewe and ram hgt 12 month liveweights and fleece weights and will be upgraded once weaning weights for the 2016 lambs are added just before ram selling.

Future SIL Changes

There are further changes from SIL in the wings which will come into effect early next year.

They plan to introduce breeding values around condition scores and longevity.
For many years now I have weighed all the stud ewes at mating and also recorded condition score which has been inputted waiting for this development to occur. Indeed, Marlow is one of the stud flocks being used to develop these BV’s.
We have observed quite a range of condition score BV’s for the sires based on their progeny recordings. This will be used with liveweight to better assess ewe and progeny efficiency and resilience.

Longevity BV’s will also be of interest. This lambing there were a couple of nine-year-old ewes and a small number of 6-8 year olds but they have to be bloody good performers to stay in the stud that long as their daughters and granddaughters are sired by higher genetic worth rams and tend to knock the older girls out of the stud quite quickly.

The relative economic value of number of lambs born (NLB) will be reduced and not increased past an economic optimum of 185% scanned. This will reduce the influence of triplets and with the stud scanning up to 225% and several commercial clients over 200% won’t be a bad thing. It will allow us to focus more on the other traits.

Facial Eczema

The autumn FE challenge was a record breaker around the country.
Areas that have never experienced it before were hit quite badly.
The map on the left shows the usual areas that deal with this unpleasant disease and the one on the right how it will affect the country with a 3 degree rise in temperatures and not far away from what areas were affected this year.

About half of my ram clients have been interested in the FE tolerance that Marlow has been building up over the last 13 years but in discussions with some of you that is probably now closer to 80%.
Several who weren’t are relieved to have got the tolerance as part of the package as neighbouring properties were badly hit and they weren’t.

All 2th rams sold this year are sired by stud rams that passed the Ramguard test at .6 and all of their dams were sired by rams that passed at .6 except for 2009 and 2010 born ewes whose sires passed at .5 and .55 respectively.
Like last year, the last column on the selection sheets will be DPX so if FE is a concern for you, keep a close eye on this sub trait.

In January I FE tested 11 ram lambs with the Ramguard test at .6 and 10 passed giving a good selection of the top ram hoggets for use at tupping.
At the moment there are 5 rising 2ths who have been dosed with the toxin and I’m awaiting with fingers crossed their 21-day blood test to see which ones have tolerance and which don’t.
It is not the best way to treat your best genestock.
Only those who pass are considered for use and I only use outside sires that have passed at .6.

The FE Gold standard was brought in to ensure that claims of FE tolerance were well grounded.
To become FE Gold, a stud must have been doing the Ramguard test longer than 10 years, testing at .6 and testing 10% of rams sold. Marlow is one of only 18 flocks from all breeds to qualify.
I note with interest that a large number of studs around the country are suddenly claiming FE tolerance on the grounds that they have used an FE tolerant ram sometime in the past.
Don’t be fooled by these claims.


This year’s 2th rams

The ram hoggets had a pretty poor autumn but I was able to look after them a bit better over the winter and are now enjoying the best spring for a long time so catching up to where they need to be.
They were shorn in early September with fleece and body weights inputted into SIL.
Shortly the will have the vet come and palpate for the B. Ovis certificate then I’ll be busy with weaning, shearing and all what that entails.
All going according to plan, I will be selling rams from early to mid-December.


Attached is the latest selection list to show you the changes but this will be updated at sale time with the 2016 weaning weights which improves survival, growth and meat indexes.
I’ll also attach the most recent sire summary which lists all the stud sires I’ve used in recent years including the sale rams and this year’s 2016 born lambs.
If you have kept your records from previous years, it allows you to see how the sires of the rams you purchased are tracking.
There is some information in here that should give you some comfort.
For a start if you look to the left you will see that the sires of the stud rams come from a good range of studs. Marlow is one of the best linked studs of any breed in the country. This is by design and means there is a high confidence level in the across flock DPP indexes I put in front of you.
This is further reinforced if you look to the number of progeny on the far right. About a third of the sires used in Marlow have progeny in other studs. That is the second figure where there are two and the same rams having progeny in different studs is the sire referencing I’m involved with and allows SIL to deal with different environments and management (phenotype) and concentrate on actual genetics (genotype).
Secondly you can see that the older stud rams from only a few years ago are pushed well down the order. This gives a good feel for the genetic gain within the stud.
On the Marlow web site are genetic gain graphs for each sub index.

If you are wanting rams this year and have a rough idea of how many please email or ring me with a number and if I haven’t heard from you, I’ll give you a ring soon.
As might be expected, I’m getting some new inquiry because of the FE tolerance but will satisfy current clients requirements first.


All the best for the busy times ahead and I look forward to seeing you in December.
Thank you for your past patronage and support.

Steve Wyn-Harris