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Poll Dorsets finish first

PUTTING Poll Dorset rams in your paddocks means you can bank on breeding lambs with rapid growth and consistent quality that demand a premium price.

Key in any lamb production system is the amount of time required to produce a saleable product.

Poll Dorsets have very high growth rates that enable lambs to reach targeted market weights quickly, being trade ready from 12 weeks of age.

The breed’s entrenched background is one of early maturity, meaning lambs are sale ready and ‘finished’ for market at an earlier age.

This is a major advantage to the prime lamb producer, with reduced management costs and decreased stress on the ewe.

Poll Dorsets have the added advantage of continuing their growth through to heavy export weight lambs giving lamb producers marketing options for their business.

Consistent Quality

The Bowan Park Poll Dorset stud research flock measures key commercial traits relevant to the Poll Dorset’s role as a terminal sire – growth, muscle and fat measured on live animals, and yield and eating quality at carcase assessment.

Early and consistent growth meant lambs from the 2021 cohort averaged just shy of 40kg at 14 weeks, and the best performing sire’s lambs averaging nearly 43kg.

This equated to an average daily gain from 10 weeks to 14 weeks, off of grazing crops with no supplementary feeding, of more than 300g/day.

Lambs from the 2021 cohort went on to average above industry expectation for dressing percentage, yielding 52.20 per cent, with the highest achieving lamb in this area having a dressing percentage of 56.5 per cent.

Higher yielding lambs mean more demand from processors, and more money in producers pockets - for no extra outlay.

A lamb intramuscular fat percentage trait has become part of Australia's AUS-MEAT language, and producers have started to receive a premium in certain markets for having high IMF lambs.

IMF has been shown to have a large effect on the sensory characteristics of lamb, including flavour, juiciness, tenderness and overall liking.

The preferred level of IMF in lamb meat is between 4 per cent and 6 per cent, with a current industry mean value of 4.3 per cent.

The 2021 Bowan Park cohort lambs averaged 4.35 per cent, and Poll Dorset sires producing lambs with IMF percentages as high as 7.77 were identified.

Quantity and Quality

According to Sheep Genetics, since the implementation of eating quality Australian Sheep Breeding Values and their incorporation into terminal indexes, selection decisions have seen the trend in the industry average IMF ASBV plateau, whilst Lean Meat Yield has been steadily increasing.

This represents the opportunity to improve eating quality without sacrificing increasing LMY.

If the attributes are combined in the breeding objective, progress can be made simultaneously to improve both eating quality and LMY together.

Poll Dorset sires currently hold the top two highest EQ Indexes (which aims to improve eating quality, carcase and growth) across all terminal breeds with Sheep Genetics.

The EQ Index incorporates post weaning weigh, eye muscle depth, fat, dressing percentage, lean meat yield, intramuscular fat and shear force.

With the meat eating quality (MEQ) probe now approved for use in sheep processing facilities in Australia, it is possible for intramuscular fat measures to be taken on each carcase, making it more relevant for the commercial producer.

Premium price

Processors prefer Poll Dorsets, and those selling direct have long been aware of the desire for that product.

Livestock buyers selecting lambs on the market also pick Poll Dorset-sired stock first, and recent results from the Dubbo Show prime lamb competition reflected this.

This year the competition was judged by Andrew Jackson of Thomas Foods International and Paul Besgrove of Hardwick Meat Company, both representing processing.

The Mason family of Westwood Grazing Co, Spicers Creek, entered three pens of Poll Dorset lambs in the competition and each was awarded a ribbon.

This included the reserve grand champion pen of lambs with their heavy export class, 62 kilograms and over, entry which had an average pen liveweight of 88.3kg and scored 95 points (out of 110).

They also received the award for the heaviest pen of lambs, the Central West Regional Poll Dorset Association champion pen, and reserve champion.

Proving Poll Dorsets rapid growth was the champion sucker lamb entry, exhibited by RB and JF Legge of Cudal, while Macquarie Anglican Grammar School, Dubbo, won champion school entry with a pen of Poll Dorsets averaging 55.5kg and receiving 87.5 points.

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