The adoption of recommended breeding practices, such as the use of performance recorded rams and objective selection of flock replacements, by sheep farmers is believed to be poor. This issue was investigated through a stratified random interview survey of 74 Wairarapa and Tararua wool growers. Equal emphasis was placed on breeding for wool and meat production by 73% of the farmers surveyed. Only 23% quantified their breeding objectives numerically in terms of wool production, lambing performance or carcass weights. Criteria, scored on a 4 point "importance" scale (1 = No; 4 = Great), for ewe hogget selection were: structural soundness (3.8 ± 0.1; mean score ± se) absence of black fibres (3.7 ± 0.1); visual body size (3.5 ± 0.1), wool characteristics (3.0 ± 0.1) and face cover (3.0 ± 0.1). Fleece and live weight recording was used by 22 and 54% of the farmers, respectively, for ewe hogget selection. Ram selection criteria were similar as those for ewe hoggets, with measured fleece weight (3.4 ± 0.1) and selection index (3.1 ± 0.1), both being rated lower on average than structural soundness, conformation and body size. Farm management consultants and WoNZ Production Officers were rarely consulted for advice on ram selection (mean score 1.2 and 1.1 on 5-point scale) in comparison to ram breeders (2.9) and other farmers (1.8). The decision on whom to purchase rams from was most commonly made on the basis of the breeder`s reputation (29%) and similarity of farm type (19%). Price (1%) and breeder advertisements (1%) were not identified as important determinants of whom to buy rams from. Overall, the survey confirmed a general lack of objectivity in sheep breeding and selection decisions. More effective ways of promoting the value and use of objective sheep breeding information to sheep farmers are required.

RG, Gavigan, and WJ Parker

Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 57, , 33-36, 1997
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