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Coopworth Genetics Australia Flock Book 2016



National Coopworth Ram Sale

Will be held 24th October 2016
Ram Sale Pavillion
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Inspection 11.00am SALE 1.00pm
60 Selected Rams

This sale is our 28th annual sale of selected rams, many of which are purchased by ram breeding flocks as well as switched-on commercial operators. The first six sales where conducted at Glenormiston Agricultural College near Terang in Western Victoria. These sales were conducted in the open air. It was then decided to move the sale to Hamilton which is a ram sale centre for the western half of the state, the major reason being that the sales could be conducted under cover in the showgrounds ram selling pavilion. The seventh sale was conducted in Hamilton in November 1998. Don Pegler entered rams in the first sale at Glenormiston in 1987 and has been selling rams in every sale since. John Keiller entered his first rams in the ninth sale in 1995 and has sold in every sale since then.

1900: Farmer 85% Others 15%
1950: Farmer 50% Others 50%
2000: Farmer 10% Others 90%

Others include stock agents, council yard dues, various levies, transport operators, meat works, wholesalers, retailers etc….. Surely the share cannot fall below 10%. No wonder quite a few producers, particularly in central Victoria are organising direct sales to the consumer. These statistics were compiled for the beef industry. Why would it be any different for the lamb industry?


Fertility is a lowly heritable trait and it takes some time to make gains by normal selection methods. Australian Coopworths have benefitted, fortunately, from the early vigorous selection carried out by the founders of the breed in 1968. There are plenty of commercial Coopworth, Coopworth cross and Coopworth Composite flocks scanning in the vicinity of 180% and weaning around 150%. Many breeders consider that is a high enough figure because any increase will be due to triplets. Whatever you do, there will always be something like 20% of ewes rearing singles, some born as twins but most born as singles.

For many years, mostly in the past, some sheep breeders have experimented with the Booroola gene that was discovered in a flock of Merinos. Having one copy of the gene, ie. a heterozygote, will result in a higher lambing percentage. The problem is that with two copies of the gene, a homozygote, can result in litters, eg five lambs. This lack of control over litter size is obviously very undesirable. There are quite a few other genes that have been identified that can increase ovulation rates and litter size with something like 50% of them resulting in infertility in the homozygous state. Very undesirable. Most of these belong to the BMP15 family of genes and this includes the Inverdale gene isolated at Inverdale Research Station.

Norwegian and Swedish researchers have identified a gene from the GDF9 family which has been discovered in the Blackdale Texel sheep owned by Peter and Leon Black. Most of the GDF9 family genes result in sterility in the homozygous state, but not this particular gene. This GDF9 gene was discovered in 2013 in Norway and stands for Growth Differential Factor 9.

Peter Black bought a ewe from Sheepac in the 1980’s and by sifting through old records she was found to be from a Texel ewe graded up from Finnish Landrace in Finland. In Norwegian commercial sheep, one copy of the gene results in 40% more lambs while two copies result in 80% more lambs. The Blacks found that two of her grandsons gave them a huge lift in lambing performance. Hogget daughters have lambed at 180% and mature ewes at 223%. Of the 100 known descendents, the Blacks know there is a lift of something in the order of 50% for hogget lambing and 30% in ewes above their normal level. They don’t know how many copies these sheep were carrying, but it is the average of her descendents.

The gene was identified in the Blackdale flock via SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) chip technology developed by Ovita. Last year half of their Texel x Coopworth ram breeding nucleus flock was mated to rams carrying the gene, so its frequency will increase rapidly, especially when a ram lamb can be tested for the gene at any time from birth. A very useful gene for the industry.


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