Future of Farming: Lessons from the Australian Merino Production Trial

Agricultural innovation crossed yet another threshold in the recent Australian Merino Production Trial (AMPT) held at the Temora Agricultural and Innovation Centre (TAIC) in New South Wales. Livestock farmers and sustainability enthusiasts converged to witness groundbreaking results that promise to shape the future of Merinao production practices. Here’s a closer look at the event, its significance, and what it might foretell for the Merino production landscape.

About the Trial

This year’s trial took place at the TREFL facility on TAIC. The shed, constructed in 2018 through a GRDC grant awarded to Farmlink and the Temora Shire Council, provided an ideal setting to showcase the shearing aspect of the trial. The dynamic shearing event at the TREFL facility provided a tangible experience of the process, from shearing to fleece valuation, offering valuable takeaways for all present.

The trial design featured 50 teams of 30 wethers dropped in 2022, entering the trial in March 2023 from various regions across the country. A significant highlight of this year was the participation of five Tasmanian teams, marking their debut in the trial. Each sheep underwent induction and shearing before being divided into two groups. Fifteen wethers were allocated to a commercial feedlot at Kiagarthur Station and were processed at Fletcher International‘s commercial plant in Dubbo at the end of last year. The remaining 15 wethers stayed on for shearing and assessment twice.

With over 150 attendees, the event saw industry stalwarts come together to celebrate the industry’s advancements and discoveries and provide an excellent networking and learning platform. Visitors observed the shearing of sheep in the 4-stand mobile shearing trailer, followed by the in shed preparation, weighing, and categorisation of fleeces based on their micron lines. After gathering data from each team, a 5-year average valuation was determined for each fleece. This assessment factored in aspects like style, staple length, strength, colour, and other relevant qualifiers affecting their commercial value.

The Australian Merino Production Trial in Review

At the heart of this year’s AMPT was the 2023-2025 Shearing Results, which unveiled a wealth of insights for participants. The data told an engaging story, with numbers painting a robust picture of success. The $24/DSE net difference between the top 10 teams and the bottom 10 teams underscored the pivotal role of effective management and genetic selection in livestock production. The results (table below) also highlight that the top teams were on average, 1.2 micron finer and had a .9kg better greasy fleece weight. Interestingly their body weights were almost identical, posing an intriguing question about the correlation between fleece characteristics and overall health and performance.

The Australian Merino Production Trial 2023 – 2025 Shearing Results 10.5 months wool growth

View results

The Profit Potential Paradigm Shift

One of the most compelling aspects gleaned from the AMPT was the redefinition of profit potential. 

The AMPT replicates what occurs on commercial farms, and the performance of the wethers in this trial can be used as a vehicle to directly compare genetic merit and, therefore, net profitability of entrants’ flocks on their properties.

These results will be collated with the meat assessment for each team which will give the real picture of the value potential for the sheep in the trial. The learnings from the two days of shearing were incredibly valuable for a merino producer. To be able to see the fleeces coming off the sheep and within 30 minutes, have a five-year average value displayed gave attendees a complete story on each team.  Each team’s average Fleece value outcome underscores the industry’s profit potential. In this trial, every team is a winner. 

The results not only illustrated the substantial financial implications of fleece characteristics but also presented an alternate paradigm for evaluating profitability in the industry. The 5-year average valuation of each fleece took into account nuanced factors that often escape the traditional models, marking a watershed moment in livestock business economics. 

Unpacking Sustainability and Innovation

Sustainability has become the lodestar guiding the global agricultural community, and the AMPT did not disappoint. Guest speaker Kathleen Allen from AWEX shed light on the latest in wool’s sustainability drive, with the imminent launch of Sustainawool 2.0. This focus on sustainability dovetailed neatly with the trial’s emphasis on innovation, as industry players gear up to align with the burgeoning eco-conscious market demands.

The Path Forward for the Australian Merino Industry

Looking ahead, the Australian Merino Production Trial has set an ambitious trajectory for itself and the industry at large. The focus on sustainability, the nexus between innovation and tradition, and the recalibrated definition of profit are not just talking points—they are the blueprints for a sustainable, prosperous future.

For livestock farmers, the message is clear—adaptability and participation in paradigm-shifting trials like the AMPT are not just beneficial but imperative in an agricultural landscape that is evolving faster than ever. The potential for change is ripe, and the shearing results from the 2023-2025 AMPT present a map for those willing to chart a new course for themselves and their industry.

With thanks…

None of this would have been achievable without the foresight, dedication, and passion of those driving the event forward. When trial convener Craig Wilson was given the chance to relocate the trial back to TAIC late last year, he eagerly seized the opportunity. Having managed the Weather trial in partnership with Moses & Son at TAIC from 2010 to 2014, Craig recognised the immense potential the facility offered in expanding his trial. It also provided an occasion to collaborate with Farmlink and steadfast supporters, Moses & Son, to highlight this innovative Merino Genetic benchmarking trial.

The event showcased a diversity of teams from across Australia, which in itself is a tremendous feat. The collaborative effort between partners like Farmlink, Moses & Son, and the Temora Shire Council added a layer of community engagement, an integral fabric of the sustainability narrative.

Participate in the Agricultural Revolution

The Australian Merino Production Trial encapsulated the pulse of the evolving agricultural sphere, and opportunities like these can deliver unparalleled professional growth and industry influence. 

We invite you to secure your spot in future trial intakes and join this transformative initiative. If you wish to participate in next year’s AMPT intake with the 24 drop wether lambs, please send your expressions of interest to Craig Wilson or Marty Moses.

The industry’s future is in our hands, and the lessons we learn from trials and experiences today will echo in our fields for years to come. The AMPT marks not just a milestone, but a bridge to the future—act now to prevent missing out on tomorrow’s agricultural renaissance!