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A SIX-year trial run by the Elmore Field Days in northern Victoria proved that dual-purpose Merinos remain one of the most profitable livestock enterprises in a medium-rainfall region, averaging total returns of $70 to $69 per dry sheep equivalent, $8-$9/DSE above its closest competitor.

The trial, which began in 2009 and concluded in 2014, investigated five breed types – Border Leicester-Merino, Loddon Valley Merino, Centre Plus Merino, Dohne and SAMM. Ewes were crossed to terminal rams, either White Suffolks or Poll Dorsets. Consultant Kieran Ransom, formerly with Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources Bendigo, Victoria, wrote a paper on the trial, titled A Commercial Comparison of Ewe breeds for Reproduction, Wool and Lamb Growth, with co-authors Forbes Brien and Wayne Pitchford.

Mr Ransom said in an Agriculture Victoria report the main comparisons were drawn between lambing percentages, lamb growth and wool production. He concluded that final results indicated that dual-purpose Merinos were a very profitable sheep system.

The report stated that reproduction, lamb growth, wool and easy-care characters were all highly relevant to improving profitability, but no single genotype excelled in all categories.

The Centre Plus Merinos had greater average lamb returns than Loddon Valley Merinos and Dohnes, at $130.04/ewe. The Loddon Valley Merino and Centre Plus Merino had the greatest average wool returns at $52.96/ewe and $49.67/ewe respectively. While the Centre Plus Merino had the second highest total returns averaging $179.71/ewe.