Mudgee Guardian

Mumblebone's data driven success

YEARS OF BREEDING: Louise and Chad Taylor, Mumblebone Merinos, Wuuluman, NSW, are producing a modern Merino which combines high fleece value with fertility and carcase traits. Photos: Ben Simpson Photography

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Focusing on key profit drivers including fleece value, fertility and condition score, the Taylor family is successfully using a range of technologies to drive the performance of their Mumblebone Merino stud at Wuuluman in NSW.

With a generations-deep involvement in the wool industry, Chad and Louise Taylor, along with Mr Taylor's parents George and Kerry, jumped at the opportunity to purchase the Mumblebone stud name and sheep flock in 1996 and it has been a rapid transformation to the modern type of Merino they are now breeding.

"Initially we were chasing wool quality on a wrinkle-free animal to withstand fleece rot and flystrike pressure, and that resulted in sheep that also grew more quickly and had more lambs," Mr Taylor said.

"By combining reproduction and carcase traits with a high value fleece, we can have the best of both worlds.

"That's the fascination for me, combining antagonistic traits to then offer those rams to the industry."

The Mumblebone Merino operation currently comprises a 2400-ewe stud flock, which is run alongside 3600 commercial ewes across 5400 hectares of owned and leased land.

Plans are underway to push stud numbers up to 3000 head as demand continues to grow for their rams, while the commercial flock is being expanded to 5000 ewes after recent land purchases.

The stud has always used a combination of visual and objective selection to assist their breeding decisions, but in the past few years they have turned to DNA parentage and genomic testing to obtain more accurate data.

GENETIC GAINS: Mumblebone is using DNA parentage and genomic testing to back up their breeding decisions.

"All the stud ewes are DNA tested, while every lamb dropped in the stud now has a full genomic test taken," Mr Taylor said.

"The genomics testing adds accuracy to the traits we have been measuring for a long time and also gives us information on hard-to-measure traits such as eating quality, intramuscular fat and shear force."

The Mumblebone breeding program aims to combine early maturity and high fertility with exceptional wool quality and fleece weight.

Both the stud and commercial flocks average 19 micron and a wool cut per head of three to four kilograms every six months from ewes that now consistently wean more than 130 per cent lambs. The family also ceased mulesing in 2006.

"We are looking for sires that combine a broad range of production and welfare traits in the top 10pc of the industry," Mr Taylor said.

"We breed sheep that combine all the traits needed for a highly profitable modern Merino enterprise - wool quality and quantity, fertility, early maturity, finishing ability, longevity and resilience on an animal that doesn't need to be mulesed."

The Taylor family have switched to six-monthly shearing across both flocks, in May and November, with impressive results.

An independent two-year trial of the Mumblebone flocks, carried out by Emma Doyle from the University of New England, Armidale, NSW, showed shearing twice a year produced eight per cent more wool, a lift in condition score of 0.6 and 12pc more lambs.

"Interestingly, there was no difference in single lamb survival, the extra lambing came from twin lamb survival," Mr Taylor said.

"We are currently achieving a wool staple length of about 65 millimetres in six months, with lower vegetable matter and higher tensile strength.

"The increase in fleece value covers the extra shearing costs and then on top of that, the ewes stayed in better condition and that has produced 12pc more lambs, it's a beautiful scenario."

Shearing every six months continues to play a role in the lambing results at Mumblebone with both the stud and commercial ewes weaning 141pc lambs last year.

TOP CLIP: Both the Mumblebone stud and commercial flocks average 19 micron and are achieving a wool cut of three to four kilograms per head at their six-monthly shearing.

The breeding program is split with half the stud ewes lambing in autumn while the remainder lamb in late winter.

Artificial insemination is also carried out to speed the rate of genetic gain. This season 1350 ewes were AI'd to a mix of home-bred sires and selected outside genetics.

The Taylor family currently sells more than 600 rams annually, with clients spread throughout southern Queensland, NSW and Victoria, as well as increased demand coming from producers in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.

This year, the 36th annual Mumblebone on-property sale will be held on Thursday, September 29.

"We were thrilled with last year's result, we offered and sold 300 rams for an average of $4570 and a top of $20,000," Mr Taylor said.

"The top-priced ram went to Cherylton Farms, at Katanning in WA, where he will be used in both their Merino and composite ram breeding operations.

"It is an exciting reflection of Mumblebone genetics that the same animal can be used to promote a Merino operation as well as enhance a composite flock."

Mr Taylor believes the growth of the stud is mainly due to the strength, skills and passion of the people working in the business, including his family and senior farm manager Andrew Glover, who is ably assisted by Jack Courts.

The Mumblebone team has also worked closely with neXtgen Agri and its director Mark Ferguson for many years, who has been instrumental in refining the stud's direction.

This is branded content for Mumblebone.