Use of MOET in Merino breeding programmes: A practical and economic appraisal
Brash LD., Wray NR., Goddard ME.
Commercial application of multiple ovulation and embryo transfer (MOET) technology will be subject to practical constraints and economic rationalism. This study examines use of MOET in its most profitable arena: to breed stud rams which will disseminate genetic improvement widely through multiplier studs to commercial flocks. A deterministic prediction is used to evaluate schemes based on an open nucleus MOET group within a Merino parent stud, taking account of genetic merit and inbreeding. Selection is based on clean fleece weight with an assumed heritability of 0·4. Embryos are collected at a rate equivalent to 3·45 live lambs per donor. Benefits of MOET were calculated from the discounted expressions of rams sold, and compared with the costs incurred. As the proportion of the flock born from MOET increases, the rate of genetic gain increases rapidly at first, but diminishing returns are observed. The costs of MOET increase linearly with the number of lambs produced, so the optimum proportion of MOET lambs is for practical purposes always less than 100%. Some use of MOET was profitable provided the stud sells sufficient stud rams each year. Sensitivity tests found that other parameters had only a small impact on the optimum level of MOET. In general however, changes which increased the rate of genetic gain (heritability, flock size) or increased its value (wool price, lower discount rate) increased the optimum number of MOET lambs. The results should provide guidelines to optimum investment in MOET for the wool industry. An across flock genetic evaluation scheme is probably necessary to motivate this investment.