DNA testing pays dividends at Gemini Prime Lamb Sires
Janine Elen, Outriders Media
Selection of Gemini October Sale Rams 2021
Highlights of stud breeding advancements including DNA testing will be on show at the Gemini Prime Lamb Sires 23rd annual on-property spring sale.
120 White Suffolk rams and 20 Suffolk rams including15 specially selected rams across both breeds are up for auction on Wednesday 20 October in Werneth, Victoria.
Gemini stud principal Craig Mitchell introduced DNA testing about six years ago and intensified the program in the past two years to further improve meat-eating traits whilst maintaining the stud’s performance benchmarks for all other traits, including lamb survival, lower birth weight and high growth.
The data has been invaluable for buyers like Bryan and James Hepburn have been happily buying from Gemini Prime Lamb sales for more than 20 years, but changes in their selection process in recent years have taken their success to a new level.
The introduction of DNA testing has allowed the Hepburn’s Bryarah cross-bred commercial operation at Mt Moriac to select their rams based on data, not just looks, and the results have been stunning.
“We’ve been buying rams from Craig since he started and have always been happy, but we’ve been getting happier,” James said.
“Dad was picking rams based on their look but we’ve changed to selecting them based on the data,” he said. “Now we’re selecting the right rams for our needs. It has changed us 10-fold. Our survivability is up, our percentage is increasing, we’re weaning more lambs now and they’re great.”
Bryarah usually buys five or six lambs at each annual sale. “We’re not a massive player but we get what we need and we don’t buy rams from anywhere else,” James said.
“Craig’s rams are getting better every year and now that we know what we’re looking for, backed by data, it’s even better for us. We’ll be bidding again this year.”
James added that Craig Mitchell had worked closely to help them change to data-based buying. “Craig is a great person to deal with – always available to help you out,” he said.
Gemini’s breeding program is aimed at the commercial producer who seek a style of sheep for progressive flock development enhanced by performance data.
“The majority of our buyers look at dollars per hectare rather than dollars per head,” Craig Mitchell said.
“DNA profiling benefits for the stud means we continue to breed sheep for a range of traits including lambing ease. We place a heavy importance on maintaining high levels of lamb survival rates and this flows through to our sale rams, and that translates into better returns for our clients”.
A range of performance sires’ progeny are featured across the sale catalogue with the now sold star White Suffolk sire Gemini 170470’s retained semen progeny headlining the sale.
“170470 ticks a lot of boxes with his data highlights being in the Top 5% TCP, Top %5 PWT, Top 10% PEMD of the breed and a low birth weight .22”
“He is a very structurally correct ram with great breed type, and it is great to see his traits and attributes coming through the flock,” Craig said.
Another standout AI sire used through the studs’ Super Whites program is Farrer 180178. He is a ram with a high TCP score with traits of note including Top 5% TCP, Top 5% for PWT, Top 10% PEMD, Top 10% LMY, and in the higher end of the range for IMF.
With a low birth weight .21, Craig said Farrer 180178 has bought consistency to the breeding flock whilst maintaining Gemini’s focus on turning off structurally sound, balanced sheep. A few of this sires’ progeny will feature in the annual sale.
Gemini Prime Lambs are also offering a new line of American Suffolk genetics the stud has used in their embryo transfer program. These ET Suffolk sires present a range of different performance traits and will add value to Suffolk breeders looking to advance their flocks.
Buyers will be able to bid on a small offering of these ET sires’ rising18 month progeny in the sale line-up.
“The 15 specially selected rams have unique attributes and there are some stud ram potentials amongst the group for interested bidders”.
“We welcome all interested buyers and valued clients to Werneth to inspect any of the sale rams prior to the auction”, Craig said.
The auction will be on-property at Werneth, Wednesday October 20 and online through AuctionsPlus.