How to develop a breeding objective
For a breeding program to be successful you need to work out what sort of sheep you want to breed based on traits that will improve your profitability and productivity. A breeding objective states your desired level of improvement in these traits and how long these changes should take. A breeding objective should be specific, measurable and attainable.
Example breeding objective
A breeding objective might be to, for example, increase clean fleece weight by 0.5kg, decrease fibre diameter by one micron, and increase staple strength by 5N/ktex while maintaining body weight, in a 10 year period.
What to consider when developing a breeding objective
- Focus on traits of economic importance rather than traits that have more to do with tradition or personal preference.
- For greater progress target traits that are highly heritable.
- Monitor the current flock performance against customer or market needs and consider how this performance and customer need might change over time.
For Merino breeders focused on wool, you should focus on fibre diameter, fleece weight and body weight, as these have the most influence on profit.
For prime lamb producers, focus on weaning and post-weaning weight, fat score and reproduction rate (number of lambs weaned per ewe joined).
Using a selection index
Selecting animals involves balancing several key traits. To make selection easier, traits can be combined into a selection index.
A selection index allows all sheep to be ranked with a single figure, on a scale from 0 to 100. The higher the sheep's index value, the higher its overall performance on the traits included.
Ensure your selection index matches your breeding objective.
- Find out more about improving sheep flocks through genetics.
- Learn about managing rams for successful sheep breeding.
- Learn about managing ewes for successful sheep breeding.
- Find out about joining rams and ewes for successful sheep breeding.