At Challara, we aim to breed an ‘all purpose’ animal using the key principles we have learnt with our long association (22 yrs) with Dr Jim Watts.
Benchmarking is an important tool at Challara when selecting advanced genetics. Challara Merino Stud began showcasing Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBV) from Sheep Genetics for the 2011 ram sale. Measurements of key traits began in 2005.
In terms of breeding goals, we are ‘striving ahead’ in the following key areas using the latest tools and technology:
- Long & Soft, Deep Crimping Wool
- Early Maturity
- Worm Resistance
Challara’s overarching objective has been to breed a plain-bodied Merino with high levels of wool fibre density and fibre length and superior quality. Classing the sheep right is the key to achieving the breeding goals. We have been shown that skin biology is the key to a highly productive and profitable animal. We do not have any fleece rot in our adult sheep and we are finding that our sheep are naturally less susceptible to fly strike. Along with this ease of management, we have also been increasing the average length of wool, the density is improving and the micron is stable with a tendency to decrease. A testament to this progress is the fact that we had to move to shearing twice per year in March 2012.
Using ASBV’s rams with high post-weaning weights are identified which enables their progeny to be turned off faster to market. Muscle scanning is also another routing test carried out on the rams and we have seen a significant increase in the eye muscle depth, relative to the body weight & the fat measurement since we began testing these carcass traits in 2005. In recent years, stud ewe weaners have also been muscle scanned at their 200-day weight. Sheep research scientists have noticed a correlation between good dual purpose/carcass traits and worm resistance, which we also test for.
Length of body is another positive attribute with Challara’s sheep. This mature body weight is a good selling point in the sale yards >they are productive sheep & are also better suited for the shipping wether market here in W.A.
Merinos bred at Challara are more fertile than a traditionally bred Merinos. This is attributed to their plain bodies & open faces. Mating the ewe weaners is also showing up the fertility at a young age. We have had lambing percentages from 50-70% when mating them for 2 cycles at 8-9 months of age. Sheep research has also shown that a positive fat measurement on the Merino Select ASBV will improve lamb survival, especially in tougher conditions.
At Challara, worm egg counts have been measured since 2005. Much effort has taken place to do the testing because the worm burden has historically been a problem in our coastal environment. The observation has been made that natural worm resistance does occur in certain family lines. Over the last three years the average worm egg count has been below 200. Consequently, has had a high enough WEC to have a Merino Select measurement. The 2017 drop ram weaners had two random WEC tests, but failed to receive a high enough worm burden to justify doing a WEC on all our ram weaners.
Challara has naturally selected a plain bodied sheep, which enables their clients to make their own decisions when it comes to mulesing lambs. Our current practice and one that we believe in is a small mules with the addition of “Trisolfen” pain relief. From our perspective, this is the best animal welfare practice. The reasons being >less urine stain& chemical application during favourable fly-strike conditions.
A Sire Evaluation can provide substantial evidence to prove the worth of a certain semen sire. The semen sire is compared to a number of other semen sires from other Merino Studs with thorough independent testing of numerous traits. Semen (usually 60 doses) is inseminated t o the same group of ewes.
Challara 140394 was entered in the 2016 Muresk (Western Australian) Sire Evaluation with encouraging results. The AMSEA website has published the results. Challara 140394 is also entered into the 2018 South Australian Sire Evaluation.
Challara 150268 was entered in the 2017 Muresk (Western Australian) Sire Evaluation.
Challara 150245 will be entered in the 2018 Muresk (Western Australian) Sire Evaluation and the Balmoral (Victorian) 2018 Sire Evaluation. The performance of his progeny from the 2017 drop is quite consistent and exciting wool quality.
Much pedigree information or knowledge about the family background of the sheep, gives us more breeding confidence that the genetics will work. The science behind the breeding also does help.