The UltraWhite as it stands today is a hardy, structurally sound, high performing easy-care sheep that has been developed to meet the wide range of needs of the Australian lamb industry.
Its good fertility, strong mothering ability and it’s great milking capacity, along with its good growth and muscling capabilities, make it a unique combination of sheep genetics that is serving the needs of the industry extremely well.
Whilst the UltraWhites are now providing a breed of sheep that is performing as high if not higher than any other “easy-care breed”, we at Hillcroft Farms can see opportunities to further add value to the genetics of this breed in the following ways
1. By adding a fertility gene (GDF9) to a portion of the flock we will be able to considerably increase the scanning percentage of UltraWhite sired ewe flocks. This can be done without increasing the incidence of triplets in these flocks beyond what is normal for most crossbred or British breed flocks.
This will give the majority of ewes in the flock, carrying this gene, the potential to have and rear twins. Under a wide range of Australian conditions the UltraWhites are quite capable of doing this.
Work is well underway to achieve this goal. At this stage it is estimated we should have limited number of UltraWhite rams available, carrying these genetics, by October, 2023.
2. Commencing in late 2021, more emphasis will be placed on worm resistance. Whilst the breed appears to cope as well as any breed with the worm challenge, the growing interest from the wetter areas of Australia have prompted us to pursue this trait. We need to have a breed that can handle the challenges that appear in different climatic, environmental and management conditions in Australia and still perform and produce at the highest level possible.
The impact of the GDF9 fertility gene on management and profitability will be thoroughly “road tested” on farm before release in 2023.
Eating quality tests are being carried out by Murdoch University. Full details of the findings will be made available before the sheep carrying this gene are released for sale.
This is to ensure eating quality is not compromised with the changes in the genetic structure of the sheep carrying these genes.
The introduction of this gene into the UltraWhites, once all testing is complete, will only be into a portion of our flock to allow lamb producers the choice of rams with or without this new gene.
Achieving this goal will add another dimension of profitability to the lamb industry in Australia, making it, by far, the most profitable breed of sheep to farm. It will also seriously challenge for land use opportunities and profitability in more areas of Australia currently not being used for sheep meat production.
Meanwhile strong emphasis will continue to be placed on the selection for structure, hardiness, growth and muscling in the UltraWhite rams offered for sale each year.
The future of the UltraWhite breed is extremely bright and can only be limited by our lack of vision and/or lateral thinking should we not keep looking for opportunities to improve the adaptability and efficiency of an already outstanding breed.
Unfortunately, due to time constraints, the pursuit of the gene to add approximately 10% additional lean meat to the carcass has been put on hold. We feel it’s important to be able to dedicate sufficient time to fully assess the eating quality of the progeny, and have suspended the project until we have finished developing the GDF9 fertility gene in our flock. Once this is complete , we will be better able to thoroughly understand the lean meat gene before it’s introduced into a section of the flock for evaluation.