While consumer demands and perceptions have changed over the past 37 years of Newhaven selective breeding, the target in terms of producing a superior high yielding carcass has not. This is an absolute priority that has been greatly enhanced and assisted during the past two decades through the introduction of ‘eye muscle scanning’ since its inception in New Zealand. This is conducted in all Newhaven sires that are offered for sale and that will be used as future stud sires. This is a measure of the area and width (and hence index) of the eye muscling on the back of each animal, a key and crucial indicator area of the carcass.
Industry yield scanning has been one of the most fundamental introductions to moving the New Zealand prime lamb industry into the future of consumer demands. We place importance on the analysis of these results – both in our own operation and our clients. The ability to influence and efficiently produce a product that the market desires has never been so accessible and this is a very exciting concept indeed.
The arrival of the ‘Newhaven Nil Drench – Generation 2’
This regime has been successfully run since 1993 From the 2009 lamb crop onwards (for sale as two tooth rams in 2011) all Newhaven Perendale Rams offered for sale will have never been dosed with an anthelmintic drench in their lives. In conjunction with industry experts, following substantial analysis on this programme over the past two decades, Newhaven is now able to run all breeding ewes under this regime and also all ram lambs and ram hoggets from birth.
Worm ‘resistance’ and ‘resilience’ are extremely important issues in today’s farming environment. Through a nil drench regime, it is important to be fully aware that these animals will indeed still come under a worm/ parasite challenge, especially at certain times of the year and under climatic challenges. However at Newhaven we believe that it is more important to breed animals that are resilient to such challenges and can tolerate a medium level of infection without effecting productivity and profitability. This belief has formed the basis of our selective breeding policy since 1993 and has been replicated on properties that utilise Newhaven superior genetics.
With full confidence in these animals to perform to the highest standard, you can rest assured that production will not be compromised, whether you are a ‘conventional’ or a registered organic farmer.
DNA trait testing
The Foot Score DNA trait testing was successfully integrated into the Newhaven selective breeding analysis during the past decade and is yet another example of how a specific trait can be assimilated into a broader genetic evaluation of a number of traits over time. This is carried out by scientists at Lincoln University and enables identification of sheep with natural resilience to the footrot bacterium. Each animal passes only one allele of the gene to their progeny (and so a lamb receives a separate allele from each parent). Target results for Newhaven stud sires are 1:1 (i.e the least susceptible to footrot).
This is an important and innovative trait that Newhaven has been placing emphasis in recent years, not only for survivability reasons, but also productivity and animal welfare. The cost of lamb mortality caused by cold exposure in New Zealand has been estimated at nearly 40 million dollars per annum, and this doesn’t take into account production losses by those that survive yet are effected by the cold temperatures. As a measure of how new born lambs can withstand the challenge of cold conditions during their neo natal period, it is of great benefit to identify those breeding sires that have the genetic ability to withstand such challenges. This DNA testing is conducted at Lincoln University and has been a substantial yet important investment for Newhaven genetics since 2003. Only those sires that have an ‘A:A’ result (a double copy of the gene) are used at Newhaven stud sire level.
This subjective trait that has been closely monitored on Newhaven for the past ten years by Agresearch, following the discovery that a number of Newhaven sires, dams and subsequent progeny were displaying distinct ‘bare breech’ (wool-less skin around the anus area of the animal) characteristics. This holds both practical attributes in regards to easier and less crutching of animals and possible long term positive consumer perception regarding issues that the fine wool industry faces with mulesing suppression. ‘If you can’t beat them breed them’.
‘Animate’ mating analysis
Genetic expertise at ‘Abacus Bio’, a Dunedin based firm, is utilised to ensure that Newhaven’s ‘single sire mating’ decisions are made in a manner that eliminates potential matches between related animals. As you know, this is an essential and proactive part of selective breeding. If coordinated incorrectly it can have the opposite effect of hybrid vigour.