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Setting Breeding Objectives

A breeding objective describes animals you would like to breed that are appropriate for your production system and market.

By setting a breeding objective—as part of your overall business planning and management—you can identify your genetic priorities and plan the genetic selection methods that will allow you to reach this goal.

Your breeding objective should target characteristics (traits) that:

  • can continue to be improved within the limitations of your environment and production system;
  • deliver wool, meat or sheep products to suit a particular market;
  • contributes the most to your profit;
  • are heritable and have sufficient genetic variation to enable progress to be made.

Also note that the more traits that you include, the progress for each will be slower, however the progress against the objective can still be high.

Breeding objectives generally include the characteristics of importance, the level they should achieve and the time frame in which this will be achieved. for example:

Within 5 years, 80% of ewes at first shearing (11 months) will have:

  • Fibre Diameter: between 17.5 and 19.5 microns
  • Greasy Fleece weight: more than 4.5 kg
  • Body weight: more than 40 kg
  • Breech Wrinkle: 1 or 2 score
  • Wool Colour: 1 or 2 score


A common fault when setting breeding objectives is to have no timelines or levels to achieve. For example: White, bright, fine wool, with heavy fleece weights on large-framed sheep that are resistant to flystrike.

By adding levels you can more easily monitor your progress towards the objective and know where changes need to occur in your selection to help achieve your goal.

For Merino breeders focused on wool, fibre diameter, fleece weight and body weight have the most influence on profit. The Sheep CRC’s Selection Assist tool can be used to review some common selection strategies using these traits.

For prime lamb producers, focus on weaning and postweaning weight, fat score and reproduction rate (number of lambs weaned per ewe joined).

Choose from the tabs below to find more detailed information.

Practical Wisdom Notes Products & Training Resources Reports, Articles and Presentations Websites

Practical Wisdom Notes / Fact Sheets

Practical Wisdom Note - Using ASBVs

ASBVs stand for Australian Sheep Breeding Values. They are the national language for benchmarking sheep based on their genetic merit and are produced by Sheep Genetics. ASBVs describe a sheep’s breeding value for a trait, e.g. fleece weight or body weight, and express the relative breeding value of sheep across different breeding flocks of that breed (or across breeds in the case of Terminal breeds). They are equivalent to estimated breeding values (EBVs) used in other livestock industries e.g. BREEDPLAN in the beef cattle industry.

Products & Training Resources

ASBV Case Studies

Several case studies are available on the use and benefits of ASBVs - download the individual case studies below.

Australian Sheep Breeding Values - A guide for ram buyers

This guide is provided to help you understand the complexities of breeding profitable yet functional sheep that are right for your business.

Merino Sheep Breeding Trainer Guide

The Merino Sheep Breeding Trainer Guide has been developed by Sheep CRC and Meat & Livestock Australia to allow vocational and education trainers (primarily in the TAFE, Agricultural College and School systems) to deliver up to date knowledge and skills in the area of Merino breeding to their students. It is designed to be used in conjunction with three Power Point presentations, produced by the Sheep CRC on developing a breeding objective, selecting a stud and rams and selecting ewes.

Visual Scores Guide

Visually assessed traits are included in the breeding objective of all stud and commercial sheep breeders, regardless of their target market or environment.

Reports, Articles and Presentations

Getting Started with Sheep Genetics

Sheep Genetics provides you with practical information on the genetic potential of your sheep. Sheep are ranked according to various production characteristics using Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) across flock or Flock Breeding Values (FBVs) within flock. See Sheep Genetics brochures available for download below. To download other publications click here.

Publications - Genetics

Download the genetics publications below.

Sheep CRC 2010 Conference Papers - Genetics

This Conference combined world class science with its practical application.

Sheep CRC 2010 Conference Papers - Sheep and their management

This Conference combined world class science with its practical application.

Sheep CRC Genomics Breakfast Workshop - LambEx 2012

During LambEx 2012 the Sheep CRC hosted a genomics breakfast workshop - download the papers from the workshop below.

SNP Chip - revolutionising genetics

This article appears courtesy of Meat & Livestock Australia (

Wool meets Meat - 2006 Conference Papers - Genetics

These proceedings are from the showcase conference of the Australian Sheep Industry CRC 'Wool meets Meat - tools for a modern sheep enterprise' conference held in Orange (NSW) during 2006.

Web Sites