B+LNZ Genetics operates both a sheep and a beef progeny test. The Central Progeny Test is a long-standing and critical component of New Zealand’s sheep genetics system, while the beef progeny test was launched in 2014.

The Central Progeny Test

A progeny test is used to benchmark the performance of a ram by comparing how his progeny perform relative to progeny from other rams in the same environment. In this way, rams can be compared across different flocks. 

B+LNZ Genetics Central Progeny Test (CPT) currently involves 180 rams, across nine sites (including six commercial properties and three cadet-training bases).

The benchmarks created by this test underpin NZGE – the weekly large-scale across-flock and across-breed evaluation.


The test background

The B+LNZ Genetics CPT was launched in 2002 and ran across three lowland sites.

In 2013, the test added a comparison of performance on two hill sites, compared to the existing lowland sites. The same year, it also added a “genetics by environment” element, by testing the rams’ progeny generated in different environments in the same year. Progeny were produced through AI, with reference rams used between years and between sites to provide benchmarks for ranking rams.

In 2016, the test’s focus was adjusted further towards more commercial hill country environments (where most of New Zealand’s sheep flock are now farmed) and – in partnership with industry – “Next Generation” flocks were introduced.

These 2016 changes allowed:

  • Testing of more rams of a younger age
  • Rams of high genetic merit to be identified in time to be used more widely, while still alive
  • The test to be carried out under more commercially-relevant environments, and
  • Partnership with industry.  


Sites

Hub sites focus on flock connectedness between the Next Generation flocks. This connectedness underpins across-industry genetic evaluation. Hub flocks also provide a resource for add-on innovative projects.

Hub sites

  • Invermay, Otago (AgResearch)
  • Mangarata, Wairarapa  (Taratahi)

Next Generation sites build stronger connections with ram breeding flocks in the industry. Each Next Generation site focuses on either a breed type or specialist challenge relevant to the land type and geographical location. 

Next Generation sites

Horizon Farming’s Maraetotara block, Hawke’s Bay
 - Focus on terminal breeds
 - Partnership with Progressive Meats Ltd.

Smedley Station, Hawke’s Bay
 - Focus on maternal traits in hill country environment
 - Partnership with Perendale Society – room for other breeds, in future.

Duncraigen, Southland
 - Focus on terminal breeds and genomic calibration for meat traits
 - Partnership with Silver Fern Farms.

Otiwhiti, Hunterville
 - Focus on best practice use of existing genomic and RamGuardTM tools to identify rams that    
   produce FE-tolerant progeny
 - Innovative use of ewe hoggets as dams, so prior use of submitted rams at the home stud farm can
   occur for best practice connectedness
 - Partnership with FE breeders.

Southdown, Palmerston
 - Focus on connectedness for Southdown breed and meat quality
 - Partnership with Southdown Sheep Society


How it works

Traditionally, about 20 new rams were tested, with lists published annually of the top 25 rams for each of several meat (terminal) and dual-purpose (maternal) production traits. Once fully implemented, the 2016 changes will increase the number of rams tested by seven-fold.

Genetic merit is established by comparing the performance of offspring of different sires run together. Sires are chosen for entry firstly on the basis of high genetic merit, then on how they help flock connectedness across the industry.

The test compares the lambs of terminal rams using a growth index, which considers the genetic merit for weaning and carcass weight, and a meat value index, derived using VIAscan predictions of the meat in the loin, leg and shoulder provided by Alliance Group Ltd. It is likely this will be expanded to include use of commercial carcass value from other meat companies. Lambs of maternal rams will be compared across a range of production traits focused on the lamb and the ewe, together with important health traits.

B+LNZ Genetics Beef Progeny Test

The B+LNZ Genetics Beef Progeny Test compare bulls under New Zealand commercial farming conditions. The test is being run over two years and involves about 2200 cows and heifers on five large properties across New Zealand.

A mix of both internationally-sourced and New Zealand semen is being used. Steers and cull heifers will be assessed on their carcase traits, while replacement heifers will be tracked for their maternal characteristics.

Dairy-beef test

Alongside the core Beef Progeny Test, a four-year dairy-beef test is being carried out at Limestone Downs. Its goal is to calculate the additional value that can be added by using high-genetic-merit beef bulls, versus the unrecorded bulls traditionally used as “follow-on bulls” in most New Zealand dairy systems.

Project Information
Dairy-Beef Progeny Test: List of Sires (2015)

Smedley takes science to the land Smedley Station is the first step for many young cadets in farming. Since March 2016, the 5054ha Hawke’s Bay training farm has also been making the first steps in on-farm progeny testing of sheep. Until recently, central progeny testing (CPT) was done solely in lowland research centres, which did not necessarily reflect the hill country environment of most New Zealand sheep. The goal is to help breeders and commercial farmers more easily identify genetics that will perform best for them, by testing in actual farming environments. View How accurately do DNA profiles match real life? While nestled amongst the B+LNZ Genetics Progeny Test family, the Landcorp Duncraigen arrangement is slightly different, as the Te Anau property is home to the South Island Genomic Calibration (SIGC) flock. View Next generation genetics tested in Hawke’s Bay Horizon Farming’s Maraetotara block could be the United Nations of New Zealand sheep farming. Lambs born on the Hawke’s Bay property this spring have sires from 11 different breeds. Horizon Farming has teamed up with Progressive Meats and B+LNZ Genetics to compare the performance of various terminal rams’ offspring under commercial farming conditions. View Caberfeidh: Clarifying the impact of genetics vs feeding vs management Caberfeidh is one of eight properties operated by Lone Star Farms – a large privately-owned sheep and beef farming enterprise totalling 140,000 stock units and based predominantly in the South Island. The enterprise is effectively run as one operation and concentrates on sheep breeding and prime lamb production. View Mendip Hills: Good genetics represent good value for money Mendip Hills is a 6130 hectare property – 5300 hectares effective – 20 minutes north of Cheviot. The rolling to high country property is owned by the Black family and supported by two irrigated blocks (180 hectares nearby at Spotswood and 150 hectares at Longbeach, south of Ashburton). Mendip Hills is managed by Simon Lee (pictured) and the total operation winters nearly 40,000 sheep, deer and beef stock units. View Rangitaiki Station: Does money spent on expensive genetics pay off? Rangitaiki Station is a Landcorp Farming property, situated on the Napier-Taupo Road. The station’s 8350 effective hectares are nearly all flat and carry 83,000 stock units. At 700 metres above sea level, cold hard winters dictate much of the farm’s policy. View Tautane Station: Breeding values and type both have role to play Ngati Kahungunu owned Tautane Station sits on the North Island’s East Coast near Pongaroa and is leased by the Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre. Taratahi is already involved in the objective comparison of sheep genetics through the B+LNZ Genetics Central Progeny Test, which includes a site on its Koromiko Station property in the Wairarapa. Now, Taratahi is stepping up to also take on the beef equivalent, as one of five properties involved in the new B+LNZ Genetics Beef Progeny Test. View Whangara Farms: Using breeding values to target specific beef performance goals Whangara Farms is a partnership between two Maori incorporations, Whangara B5 and Pakarae A, based 30 kilometres north of Gisborne. It totals 7100 hectares, supporting 70,000 stock units, including 1600 mixed-age breeding cows and 32,500 ewes. View Limestone Downs: Putting a dollar value on using good beef genetics This newest progeny test aims to put a dollar value on the extra profit that can be added to the dairy-beef supply chain by using good beef genetics. View