Sheep genetics headed in the wrong direction

Breakout River Meats together with Tattykeel Poll Dorset Stud want to alert farmers to what they call the 'misuse' of the MLA's Lambplan System.

Chris Cummins from Breakout River Meats is concerned with the quality of lambs coming from studs which use the program.

"There are some Lambplan users producing good lambs but it has led the others down the wrong path" Mr Cummins said.

He says since Lambplan was introduced he has seen lamb genetics head in the wrong direction.

"The lambs are not getting a good eye muscle, or fore quarter or loin, we are seeing product that is too lean with long necks, and narrow heads, and that is no good for us."

Mr Cummins noted the lamb carcass' quality slipping almost five years ago and identified Tattykeel as premium growers.

"We discovered years ago that the best lambs coming over the hook were from Tattykeel," Mr Cummins said.

"So I approached Graham Gilmore to ask what he was doing differently."

Mr Gilmore does not use the Lambplan System at his stud.

"I was involved with Lambplan originally but it was not working for us, but luckily we saw that it was taking our product down the wrong path and stopped," Mr Gilmore said.

"The accuracies have nothing to do with accuracy, but with the amount of data you put into the system, it doesn't have to be right and the more information you enter the higher your indexes."

"No one is looking over your shoulder to double check that the entries that are being put into the system are correct," Mr Gilmore said.

"I am not suggesting that everyone who uses the system will cheat, but some will, you can't have a system where there are opportunities for people to cheat."

Mr Cummins' said that MLA and DPI have 'simply taken the elastic band and stretched it too far.'

"The MLA or DPI have never stepped foot through our door, and have never asked us what we want," he said.

"It is not just me saying it, it is my three-hundred customers, we have to give them what they want."

"Sometimes with the Lambplan System the lambs can't be finished until they are nearly hoggets because they are too lean."

"That doesn't mean other Poll Dorset studs aren't doing the right thing, but we are coming out to say that these lambs are what we want," said Mr Cummins.

"This area has the biggest Poll Dorset producers in NSW, all I am do is rattling the can, to let people know they have gone down the wrong road."

Mr Gilmore says the Lambplan system has pushed the industry in the wrong direction time after time.

"MLA spent tens of thousands of dollars because they wanted to produce a leaner lamb."

"They then did the trials to find out what all good butchers already knew that without a good balance of fat to muscle you lose eating quality, and it tastes like cardboard."

"First they say beware of fat then it is beware of too much muscle," he said.

"The problem is farmers are being told by DPI that you can't breed good lambs without these breeding values. More important is the breed type balance, shape and consistency of a particular sheep. Just looking at numbers generated by the computer and getting all excited doesn't have any bearing on what hangs in the cool rooms at the abattoir," Mr Gilmore said.

Mr Cummins believes that the industry needs to take a new direction to survive.

"If it is done right we can target the light trade, heavy domestic or heavy export markets, because the lambs would be good the whole way through," he said.

"Every government body or levy body seems to get into bed with Woolworths and Coles, and if that keeps happening there will be no market."

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