Federation of Merino Breeders
Roberts President World
Welcome to Merino World. I appreciate the opportunity as President to again c om m u n ic a t e w i t h member countries.
It was a great pleasure last April for Narda and I to travel to the 10th World Merino Conference in Montevideo, Uruguay, and as part of this celebration to participate in the Pre-Conference tour of Uruguay and the PostConference tour in Argentina.
Never having been to either of these countries it gave us great insight into their culture, management and hospitality and the direction each of these countries is taking their Merino industry. We had great conversations with people and even though at times there was a language barrier it was no barrier to communication. It was a trip that we will treasure for a lifetime. It is indeed an uplifting experience to visit members in their own environment and to see their enthusiasm and passion for the Merino.
There are many challenges around the world for all Merino breeders, with each country having its own individual problems that are quite often replicated in other environments. Predators are indeed a major problem whether they are attacking from the ground or the air. In Australia we are currently going through a program of re-erecting dog proof fences. These combined with our 1080 baiting programs have had a huge environmental benefit and we are seeing in our own area the return of many native animals (echidnas, bettongs, plains turkeys, snakes and lizards, ground nesting and dwelling birds) due to reduced predation.
The top end of the Merino industry is clearly getting very close to optimising genetic traits for growth and wool production. We all need to be very mindful that if we overload the animals then we start to have problems with reproduction and survivability in the environment we run the animals. The American cattle industry is a great example of this with Australian stud masters over utilising the growth traits that American genetics offered. We have now seen the Australian cattle industry move back to a more moderate framed animal because of the problems that the very big animals caused when running their progeny in rangelands conditions. I think this is a great lesson for the Merino industry and I hope we don’t see these problems replicated in our Merinos.
We are in a very fortunate position at present with returns from our Merinos at high levels. To maintain the enthusiasm of young people we need to have a profitable industry. It is very easy at the moment to encourage and retain young people in our industry. It is essential that these young people are exposed to a wide range of ideas in the areas of genetic selection and management. There is an open invitation to young people from around the world to travel to Australia to continue their education in these areas.
I am very keen to utilise Merino World to communicate innovative ideas and products to members and we have included some of these in this publication. If any other member countries have something that they believe will benefit the wider Merino community let us know so that we can include it in a future publication or just via email. New Zealand has offered to host the next mid-term Insight Conference and meeting in 2020 and preliminary planning is under way. This will be an excellent opportunity to view the New Zealand Merino industry.
It has been distressing to hear of dissent In Lesotho from our member, the Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association (LNWMGA). Under new Government regulations farmers are now obliged to sell their product at the newly opened Lesotho Wool Center, believed to be a foreign-owned private enterprise . Farmers believe this creates a monopoly which is at odds with the previous method where sales were conducted in Port Elizabeth in neighbouring South Africa through wool broker BKB.
We hope that any changes may ultimately be at no detriment to the LNWMGA and their 35,000 members. Still in Lesotho, we acknowledge with regret the retirement of Lefu Lehloba, longstanding manager of LNWMGA. Lefu has attended most conferences since South Africa in 1990 and was instrumental in ensuring Lesotho’s membership of the WFMB. He will be missed but we wish him well in the next stage of his life and career.