Article by Steve & Deb Milne, AWSA
Young Sire & Genetic Improvement Group
Working together, with a common breeding objective, a desire to improve the rate of genetic gain in member flocks, a willingness to test highly ranked young rams and improve linkage between flocks. These are the core of the aims of the SUPERWHITES group within the Australian White Suffolk Association.
The SUPERWHITES group is a renamed version of the AWSA Flock Improvement Program which was established in the mid nineteen nineties. The group currently has 19 members, Ella Matta, Langley Heights, Illoura, Woolumbool, Leith, Ida Vale, Felix, Ashmore, Glengarry, Farrer, Koonawarra, Gemini, Bundara Downs, Waratah, Pendarra, Trigger Vale, Yanco, Kohat and Yonga Downs. Collectively these flocks join over 9000 White Suffolk ewes and sell around 15% of the White Suffolk rams sold in Australia.
Each year the group selects a team of young rams from those nominated by members. These rams are allocated independently across the group, together with a proven link sire, providing great genetic linkage and a commensurate increase in ASBV accuracy. This increase in the accuracy of selection, together with a lower male generation interval, has led to an improved rate of genetic gain across the SUPERWHITES group, providing its commercial ram clients with distinctly high-performance rams.
With the advent of eating quality ASBVs and the introduction of the LEQ index, the groups selection focus has shifted slightly over recent years to include this information. Despite this slight change in emphasis, the group has maintained its gains in the traditional growth and carcase traits as shown by the Carcase Plus figure, whilst arresting the increase in Shear Force and the decline in Intra Muscular Fat, two traits which have a major effect on eating quality.
SUPERWHITES has always been at the forefront of the breed in participating in industry research. Group members have led the breed, and probably industry, in involvement in the Sheep CRC/MLA Information Nucleus and Resource flocks, to the extent that 55% of the White Suffolk sires used in those programs emanate from member flocks.
In addition, the SUPERWHITES group is also participating in a Producer Initiated Fast Track project with support from MLA. To this end the group has carried out 2137 genomic tests and collected phenotypic information on 287 lambs from 55 sires. All were 2017 drop lambs. These sires represent 18 different flocks, not all of them SUPERWHITES members. There have been 3 trial kills at JBS Bordertown, TFI Tamworth and Frewstal Stawell. When the phenotypic information is available it will be incorporated into the Sheep Genetics analysis.
Effectively this project has established a White Suffolk reference flock based around the SUPERWHITES group. This project, together with continued involvement in industry wide research, will allow all White Suffolk breeders to make more informed selection decisions and make faster genetic progress in eating quality and lean meat yield, at the same time as improving other traits.
If you would like more information on SUPERWHITES, contact:
- Steve Milne “Waratah”(SUPERWHITES Chair) 0428786327,
- Andrew Heinrich “Ella Matta” 0427596108,
- Darren Smith “Farrer” 0413911182,
- Andrew Bouffler “Trigger Vale” 0427207656,
- Aaron Clothier “Woolumbool” 0428658002
or visit the website.