Lambplan and ASBVs
Australian Sheep Breeding Values - ASBVs - are a new genetic tool. You can check another flock's ASBVs to
make sure you are buying a good ram, or you can join Lambplan and get ASBVs for your own flock. Your own ASBVs help your own breeding, and good ASBVs will help to sell
your own stock.
ASBVs are calculated on many different traits for many different breeds, including some cleanskins and composites. Each trait for each breed has a base
value of an average from the 1990s, and each year the current average for the breed is given as a plus or minus compared with the original base. The ASBV for a particular
animal is calculated from data which is fed into the system from each flock, so you can see if a ram is better or worse than both the old base line and also the current
average for particular traits.
The simplest option for small farmers is to decide two or three traits which they want to improve in their
flock, and buy a ram which has good ASBVs for those traits. The traits can range from rapid growth, to number of lambs weaned, to worm resistance. Wool sheep have extra traits
for wool characteristics. Not all traits are equally heritable, but a ram with good ASBVs for the traits you want should improve all its progeny to some extent. This is the
new 'gene selection' tool which is used to improve pure breeds, and you can also use it for 'gene transfer' from other breeds.
Some new cleanskin breeds have very few participating breeders, so it can be hard to source a ram which is unrelated
to other local flocks and has good ASBVs. However the system keeps getting bigger and better, so new breeds will catch up in time.
If you decide to join Lambplan to get ASBVs for your own flock, you need to collect some data yourself, and
some must be collected by a consultant. For example, good meat sheep have a big 'eye muscle' (which is the 'fillet steak' location in beef cattle), and eye muscle depth must
be measured with a special scanning machine. It can be hard work for small farmers to collect their own data, and Lambplan and consultants' fees aren't cheap. It helps if you
can share the cost of consultants' visits with a neighbour. Lots of information about joining Lambplan is available on the Internet.