Type and breeding
By using nature as a major selector, the Konsortium-breeders have over years broken away from the traditional Merino with pleats – long before their partnership was born. A more robust Merino, which produces well under natural conditions, has evolved. This sheep is larger, plain-bodied, open-faced and has less bellies and points. That which is lost in wool density, is gained in length. The type boasts good constitution, better reproduction and better mothering abilities.
Konsortium-breeders select purposefully for fertility. Due to high reproduction there are enough replacements to enable culling of all ewes that skip, or do not wean a lamb. All stud lambs are weighed at weaning and subjected to performance testing as year-olds. Wool and growth performance indexes, as well as strict hand-and-eye evaluations ensure optimal ewe selection – the foundation of their success.
Test for the best
As members of the Merino Plan the reproduction and production of Konsortium-sheep is constantly being evaluated to ensure progress. In the past their participation in Merino SA’s national progeny tests, veld ram clubs and the National Show for Measured Productio also kept them on track.
About 950 ram lambs are entered for every sale on Dombietersfontein and tested on natural veld conditions for six months to identify the best from the rest. Buyers can thus always be assured of quality rams that perform on veld. More than 3100 Merino ewes and 15 Konsortium-rams were part of the largest Merino progeny test tackled in the South African Merino-industry to date. The Konsortium-breeders eagerly implement scientific methods to identify superior genetic sires.
BLUP breeding values
To breed the ideal Merino is a challenge, as the breed’s most important economic attributes correlate negatively with each other. The bigger the sheep, the stronger the wool. The more wool a sheep carries, the shorter it’s wool. Fine wool again, is generally produced on smaller sheep.
BLUP-analysis is done to enable one to determine far more accurately a Merino’s predicted breeding values with regards to body weight, clean clip weight, fibre diameter and staple length. These breeding values are estimated by taking an animal’s own performance, those of his parents, other forebears and half-siblings, as well as his own progeny’s performance.
SA BLUP-values indicate that the Konsortium boasts big sheep with low/fine micron and good staple length - that which is so difficult to achieve because of the breed’s negative correlations. Over the past years Konsortium-Merino gradually gained in body weight and decreased in micron. Thus on track with their breeding goal.
The breeders meet before every mating season to choose the best rams. Each stud ewe is evaluated and a fitting ram selected for her from the pool. They aspire to strengthen a ewe’s strong points and solve possible shortcomings. The breeders then carefully plan a program of AI and synchronization. Konsortium’s prize rams are transported from farm to farm to AI the first and second cycles. For the third cycle each breeder uses his own rams for the few skipped ewes.
It is irrelevant how many, or from which breeder the stud rams are recruited. What does matter, is that they are the best rams for the present breeding requirements. The progeny of each member’s ewes (ram and ewe lambs) remain his property. The top ram lambs being bred are available to all for future mating. Every December the Konsortium takes stock. The successes and shortcomings of the previous season are evaluated in order to plan for the next season.