This Scheme had its inception in 1964 after the opening of the Fleece Testing Centre at Grootfontein, Middelburg, Cape. Since then, the Centre has played a dominant role in the improvement of fleeces in South Africa. Fibre diameter has decreased by more than 5 microns over the past decade and body weight has been lowered without decreasing the wool production per sheep.
The first multi-trait BLUP analysis (traits analysed were body weight, fibre thickness, clean wool production and pleat count) on Merino sheep was completed in October 1996. This was the first multi-trait analysis done on sheep in the world. BLUP analyses are now done at regular intervals.
In the past months negotiations have taken place with the Wool Testing Bureau in Port Elizabeth to take over the testing of individual wool samples previously done by the Fleece Testing Centre. This was necessitated by the improvements in testing methods (OFDA - Optical Fibre Diameter Analyser) where the variation in fibre diameter is measured and presented graphically. Because of the high costs of acquiring and maintaining this apparatus it is not viable for the Fleece Testing Centre to continue with individual testing. The Fleece Testing Centre at Grootfontein will, however, remain the focal point for individual fleece samples, where staple length and crimps per inch will still be determined, if required. The results of the analyses will also be sent out by the Centre as will the results to the INTERGIS.
Another notable change is the acceptance by INTERGIS of Merino breeders under the within-herd-selection option whereby animals are recorded, performance tested and eligible for inclusion in the calculation of BLUP breeding values, but no registration records are created. Because of this, the fee-structure is more acceptable to the Merino Society, and more farmers should participate in the Performance Testing Scheme.
The specifications for the new computer system at INTERGIS are almost completed, which will include, amongst others, a measure of fertility for each female in a herd, irrespective of whether they have lambed or not, provided records of matings are supplied.
Mutton sheep and goat performance testing scheme
A Phase C Ram Testing Centre has been opened at Irene, where all animals, accepted by INTERGIS, are eligible for testing. This facility should supply much needed data on the growth rates and feed utilization capabilities of the various breeds. The initial intake consisted of 39 Ile de France ram lambs, and will be followed by a group of Dorper rams. The lambs are housed in individual pens and fed a ration of OTK finishing pellets. It is intended to extend these facilities to other regions where a demand exists.
Reports and Summaries, similar to those presented by the Beef Performance Testing Scheme will be sent to all breeders participating with INTERGIS. These will include the Breeding Herd Report, Reproduction Report, as well as the Ewe Summary.
As is the case with the Merino breeders, the possibility of participation at INTERGIS under the within-herd-selection option could make it more feasible for Dorper and Boergoat breeders, for whom pedigree information is not required for stud breeding (although it is required for exportation of animals), to participate in the Performance Testing Scheme. This would also ensure more records available for BLUP analyses.
Both the wool and mutton schemes have been poorly supported over the past few years, and it is a challenge for all concerned to find ways and means of increasing interest among all Breed Societies and breeders, in the scientific developments of the past decade.
For more information contact:
Tel.: + 27 (0)12 672 9145,
Fax: + 27 (0)12 665 1419
ARC-Animal Improvement Institute, Private Bag X2, IRENE, 0062