Profitable Genetic Imrpovement Programs

Animal genotype plays a large role in farm profitability, helping the efficient conversion of grass into product.

Consequently, genetic improvement in the sheep industry has been a key focus of the Mackinnon group since our inception in 1983, and all consultants take an active interest in sheep breeding. Dr Fred Morley, founding Director of the Mackinnon Project, was trained by Dr Jay Lush in quantitative genetics at the University of Iowa in the 1950's. Fred's work identified the benefits of measuring sheep for those factors that directly influence profit in order to achieve meaningful genetic gains.

The Mackinnon Project has helped define the consequences of selection using objective measurement in sheep production systems. Important practical issues have been highlighted in many newsletter articles and research, such as the 'World's Finest Ram' Project, over the past 20 years.


The Mackinnon project has considerable skill and experience in developing and applying practical animal breeding programs:

  • Profitable sheep breeding programs
  • Profitable beef breeding programs

Profitable Merino Breeding Programs

You've heard that the type of Merino that you run profoundly affects your long term profit. When managing Merinos from different flocks together as a single mob, we see large differences in their production. Because these sheep have been managed together since birth, it is reasonaonable to assume that most of the variation is due to genetic differences.

How do I ensure that the genetics of my flock are in the top 10% available?

The answer lies in your definition of what is a "top sheep". This implies that you have a long-term breeding goal for the future of your flock - the top sheep will be those that best meet this goal.

For example, let's assume that you wish to maximise the fleece value of your sheep. Mackinnon Project consultants can assist you develop a breeding program that meets this goal and will breed sheep suited to your environment and management.

When aiming to maximise fleece value, here are some questions you should ask:

1. What things (or sheep characteristics) will affect my long term profit?

2. Which of these can we influence by genetic selection?

3. What is the best way to identify animals with the best "combination" of genes for all these characteristics?

Fact sheets

To answer these questions, we have produced a series of "Fact Sheets" for you to download:

What is the benefit of setting up my own ram breeding program?

Collecting pedigree records

The advantages and disadvantages of different wool testing systems?

The genetics of staple strength

Using weaning weight to provide improved fleece weight predictions

What measurements to take when

How to improve reproduction rate using genetic improvement?