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 Report on visit to Russia in April 2017

Firstly, I would like to thank Mikhail Egorov and the Russian National Association of Sheep Breeders for inviting Beth and I to Russia to visit merino farms. It was a wonderful and informative trip for us and we learnt much about the country, the people, its history, the Stavropol Region and of course the Russian merino and the new Russian Meat Merino.
Mikhail made our trip very enjoyable and comfortable. The hospitality we received at every farm was exceptional and we were welcomed with warmth and kindness which we will never forget. It was great to see Vasily again after meeting him on the visit to Australia and Uardry in 2004. We enjoyed meeting all the staff from the Sheep Breeders Association office including Helena and of course Elina whose English was excellent. She worked very hard as our interpreter – some days up to 15 hours - and had researched many topics in relation to the merino industry, pastures and general knowledge to ensure our understanding of everything we were experiencing. Mikhail and Elina took great care to anticipate all our needs for which we are very grateful.   
Our visit included many aspects of the sheep industry including visiting 6 merino breeding properties. I also gave two presentations: one of which was a “master class” of what we look for in a dual-purpose merino in Australia and the other was an impromptu speech followed by a question and answer session at the Institute of Sheep and Goat Breeding. It was very good to see Marina again after meeting her in Adelaide last year where she gave an excellent paper in flawless English. We also visited a modern wool processing plant in Cherkessk.
The first farm we visited was the sheep breeding farm Lenin at (Arzghir Village) where we were met very warmly by the director of the museum, Galina.  We enjoyed a typical Russian lunch and then viewed the well-presented museum which apart from an impressive display of trophies and ribbons, paid tribute to the staff and workers involved in all aspects of the farm. Those involved in merino breeding showed a great passion and dedication with some families going back four generations. It was a great history of genetic improvement, focus on lifting production and the pursuit of excellence.
We then travelled out to inspect the merinos on-farm where a good display had been set up. The Manager Anatoly Shtelmakh was away however we caught up with chief sheep breeder, Antonina.   The merino production system is to lamb in February in sheds. Stud lambs are numbered and have full pedigrees. These lambs were enjoying Spring warmth and feed growth.
This farm was 52,000 hectares with annual rainfall of 300mm and employing between 5-600 people. Forty years ago it ran 77,000 sheep but numbers are now reduced to 12,000 ewes of which 7,000 are joined to merino rams. They also run 2,500 cattle.
Thirty years ago the Russian woolclip had an average wool yield of approx. 50%. Great strides have been made in decreasing micron (approx. 26 microns in 1990) while improving wool length and colour, and increasing wool yield. The average micron is now around 22 microns.
The new Russian Meat Merino is focussed on 70% meat and 30% wool. The sheep were well presented and in good health. I believe there were some good wools on these sheep. However more emphasis needs to be placed on style and crimp definition – not in only this flock but throughout all Russian merinos. It is only a matter of selection.
Farm Two:  “Put” Lenina - managed by Nicolay Polyansky and assisted by Valentine Panasenko
We enjoyed our meeting with Nicolay and discussing the farm he operated and the Russian Sheep Industry.
We inspected the merinos on this farm and I found there were a few more rams here with soft faces reflecting soft wools with more crimp, character and style (see photo). Comments: even when wools micron test well it does not mean they are good wools. There is a lot of testing of wools in all merino countries throughout the world however the wool must look and feel stylish and possess bold crimp which improves the colour, brightness, lustre, softness, processing ability, tensile strength and ability for the wool to absorb dye.
 

Farm Three: Rodina – managed by Vladimir Kabalov
The young 10 month old ewes were slightly smaller and may have been younger and were lighter on the tip. The wools were very soft, bright and well-marked.  The ewe pictured with Vladimir and the Shepherd, Alexey, is a very good breeding type being well grown, great barrel and with excellent wool quality.
The sires in the photo were big and long bodied with good bright soft wools with a lighter tip.
 
   Farm Four: Manych –one of 4 big genetic centres managed by Sergei Fisenko and assisted by Sergei
 29, 000 ha running 8,000 merino ewes, 300 cattle and 17,000 hectares of pasture. The weather is very changeable in this area: a lot of wind and is very open with not many trees. There is a lot of natural or native pasture in the Manych Steppe area.
I was introduced by Mikhail to approx. 60 breeders, Media and Industry Representatives from a wide area throughout sheep breeding areas of Russia. After thanking the Russian Federation of Sheep Breeders for inviting Beth and I to visit Russia my address explained the Merino Industry in Australia saying that we were losing 2 million merino ewes annually (now back to 20 million merino ewes in Australia) and that it was important to Merino breeders throughout the world to lift ewe numbers, wool production and meat production.  Sheep production had slipped from 190 million sheep (all breeds) in 1990 to 70 million today. I gave an update of sheep, wool and meat prices in Australia, explained my career at Uardry as Stud master, my long association with Mikhail Egorov and Vasily and the purchase of Uardry Stud Rams in 2004. Interestingly Basil Clapham, Stud Manager of Uardry and Boonoke had visited Russia in the 1960s to also assist with his knowledge so Uardry had a long- time association with Russia.
Several rams were put on a platform for me to give a Master Class on what we look for in a Modern merino sheep in Australia and how I would assess it.
I explained that I like to look at the structure of the sheep: good top line (back), wide brisket (chest) and good twist (meat below the tail - depth and width). As you get more meat (body weight) on a sheep the more pressure goes on their feet so it is important to have good bone in the legs and good pasterns and feet to hold the weight. As explained earlier soft clean faces reflect soft wool, wide noses mean wide bodies, long noses mean long bodies, deep jaws indicate deep bodies. Many of these things are measured by the Studmaster’s “eye”!
I also explained the meaty type merinos in Australia had tended to become plainer (less wrinkle on the body and neck development) and were found to generally mature faster.
I believe Russia must concentrate on width and depth of body – a sheep with a good barrel will do better (fatten) in a colder climate than a big long narrow sheep. I have found this to be the case in New Zealand and Argentina too.
When discussing the wool, I looked for length of staple, softness, lock structure, brightness, style (crimp) and a bold wool. If breeders rely totally on measurement I believe the wools will become thin and lack character. Therefore, by selecting a visually bold wool that tests 19 or 20 microns, it is superior to a wool that tests 19 or 20 microns that looks fine but tends to have no character. Once a ewe has a lamb these type of wools will become thinner and lighter cutting.
I enjoyed seeing the 4 different types of Merinos on display:-
A freshly shorn traditional old type Russian Merino ram which was smaller, shorter in the leg, more development of skin, with no real meat qualities - narrow with no meat below the tail.
Two of the modern type Russian Meat Merino rams I was given to asses on the platform with very good meat and wool qualities that I have discussed above and the Manych Merino unique older fashioned type sheep in Russia. It was great to see the many breeders from local and other provinces support such a day. I hope and trust they enjoyed the Master Class and could gain some knowledge.
Once again Sergei and Sergei were doing a very good job operating this farm.
Importantly the Merino is a man-made animal, is highly flexible to be what we wish it to be. The Merino can be and is becoming the best dual-purpose sheep in the world.
Farm Five: Rossiya - managed by Anatoly Moskalenko.
We were shown a very impressive Stud ewe that had twins however one of the twins had died so the lamb that was left was magnificent. This tremendous ewe had bright stylish wool, both length of staple, excellent body shape (length and width) and the best breeding type of ewe I saw in Russia.
Apparently, she had been a Grand Champion earlier in her life at the major show in Moscow. This is the type of ewe that should be the aim of the Russian Merino Breed. This ewe had the attributes of maximum production for both meat, wool and lambing percentage.
We also saw Uardry bloodline sheep and some East Bungaree bloodline rams. The East Bungaree types were bulky heavy cutters, possibly a bit strong in the wool. They were typical of the old East Bungarees not so much like the type of East Bungaree being bred now which is much more medium.
The sheep were in very good body condition and it was obvious that Anatoly and his shepherds look after their stock very well.
Farm Six:  Vtorya Pyatiletka - managed by Igor Serdukov
We appreciated the time, effort and trouble that everyone went to in presenting the many mobs inside and outside the yards at Vtorya Pyatiletka.  I was also very interested in the types of feed on display that the sheep receive i.e. silage, oats, Lucerne and hay. To have good livestock they must be well fed particularly prior to lambing and perhaps pre-joining depending on the season. Young sheep need protein and energy to grow to their maximum potential which in turn enables them to return more money in increased wool production during their lives.
I was also interested in the information such as average daily weight gain, weaning weight, micron and comfort factor. To continue to develop the Russian Meat Merino, selection for body weight, body shape (loin, eye muscle area) with a good amount of meat in the twist area (below tail toward the udder) will need to continue with good soft wool (style, length and thickness of staple) characteristics.
There seemed to be more ewes and rams at this flock with better crimpy stylish wools. The mixed age Sires in the paddock were big and bulky, good heavy wool cutters showing that they were very productive.
It was great to see the Australian Association of Stud Breeders Pedigree Certificates displaying the Uardry pedigrees of the rams transferred to Russia in 2004.
It was obvious that this was one of the leading ram breeding centres producing a modern Russian Meat Merino. The passion and pride of all the staff in promoting their Merinos to us was very evident.
The Russian Meat Merino is developing into a modern dual purpose breed. My recommendations for the breed are as follows:
•    Keep selecting for crimp and stylish wools with both length (a priority) and density (good lock structure). Many wools can test well but are flat and lacking character. There is a tendency when breeding for meat attributes for the skin to become flatter and therefore the wool to be flat.
•    Keep selecting for width of loin, meat below the tail (width and depth) or breech area which we call “twist” in Australia. Wide briskets (chest) also. These sheep typically do well in cold climates and fatten at a faster rate than tall narrow sheep.
•    Keep selecting for average daily weight gain and 300 day weight. I imagine this type of sheep, say a wether at 12 months before cutting its two teeth (lambs) being shorn and then sold will give the greatest income per head.
•    Continue to select for ‘eye muscle area’ provided the sheep has the attributes of width of loin etc (as above). Do not use a ram which is long and narrow, without a good twist even if he has a good eye muscle.
After purchasing rams I have often found the next generation to breed better having the influence from
From the sample of sheep I saw in Russia, the frame size and wool cut look good and yield I was told has obviously improved greatly. Fortunately for Russia there is a worldwide demand for 22-23 micron wools since Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and South Africa are much finer than in 1990.
It must be encouraging for Russian merino breeders to receive renewed funding from the Russian government to improve the breed and build ewe numbers to support woollen mills in Russia.
Finally, I believe the measurement of eye muscle area (EMA) which is used in New Zealand may be the more genetically accurate method for measuring eye muscle rather than eye muscle depth (EMD) as used in Australia.

It was an honour and wonderful opportunity for Beth and I to visit Russia, the Stavropol and other sheep breeding areas, be hosted and supported by Mikhail Egorov and the Russian Federation of Breeders along with the many welcoming Managers, Shepherds, employees and their families. We truly enjoyed your country, the Merinos, the amazing tour you organised for us, your warmth and friendship. You have a very good base of Merinos to work from and have a very good product to keep developing. We also appreciate the time Elina put into the research before our visit, her many hours of interpreting as well as her and Mikhail’s time and effort hosting us during our wonderful visit.
We look forward to your visits to Australia in the future as we welcome the opportunity in returning the kind hospitality.


Our thanks and fondest regards,
Chris and Beth Bowman    


Entered the office on May the 5th 2010 President of World Federation of Merino Breeders Robert Ashby has addressed a letter of gratitude to Director General of National Association of sheep breeders. In his letter Robert Ashby sincere thanks Russian delegation for participation in 8th World Merino Conference, held in Rambouillet, France from 2nd till 6th May 2010.
“I enjoyed our informal discussion during the conference, and feel there is great potential for the already strong relationship to continue to develop between your National Association and Australian stud merino breeders.” - Robert Ashby said.
Robert Ashby has expressed a wish to visit 12th Russian Agricultural Producing Exhibition “Golden Autumn”, which will be held from 8 till 13th October 2010 in Moscow.


On June 25th 2010, Indian company ASE SALES in the name of Anoopam Shroff and Umeysh Shroff importers and exporters of textile raw materials, readymade garments, food products and other commodities, has visited “National Association of sheep breeders”. The purpose of their visit was the search of partners and producers of fine and half-fine merino wool in Russian Federation. This company buys wool from Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa and also from some European countries. ASE SALES is concerned in purchasing of greasy merino wool form Russia 19-21 micron and 21-23 micron, and also besides merino wool they said they want to buy 24-28 and 30-35 micron wool.
Representatives of Indian Company have also explained needful wool characteristics, they needed to know the full information about fine-wool qualities, produced in Russia. Their program intention is to buy sheep through trade house “Sheep Breeder”, which is a member of “National Association of sheep breeders” and to make an agreement with “National Association of sheep breeders”.
On June 26th 2010 the Indian company and representative of “National Association of sheep breeders” Serdukov V.N. have visited some of enterprises: “Put Lenina” of Turkmensky district and “Sursky kolos” of Ipatovsky district. They have visited shearing area. There was flock of ewes 2009 year of birth with weight average 42-45 kg.  Firstly, they have overlook wool on animals and sheep shearing process. Fleeced were overlook at classifying process. Basic wool mass was of 64th quality, 20-25% of wool was of 70th quality. They were satisfied with wool quality.
The Agreement works in on development stage.
 

 


12th Russian Exhibition of breeding sheep has not done without participation of foreign visitors. Turkish sheep breeder Osman Nuri has visit the Exhibition this year, which has been held form 24th till 29th May in Eslista, Republic of Kalmykia. The purpose of his visit was purchasing of 160 head of Romavsky breed of sheep. For purpose realization he has received an invitation from Director General of National Association of sheep breeders Egorov M.V. to visit the 12th Russian Agricultural Producing Exhibition “Golden Autumn”.  


Ex-President of World Federation of Merino Breeders Glen Keamy, who has left his office, after two terms as WFMB President has directed a warm and friendly letter to Director General of National Association of sheep breeders Egorov Mikhail Vasilievich.
 In this letter he is saying how delighted and pleased he was to be presented on behalf of member countries with a plaque in appreciation of his service over the past eight years. Such an accolade was indeed a surprise and one that he will always treasure.  Glen Keamy has thanked Egorov M.V. for approval and friendship and also for speech of National Association of sheep breeders, representing Russia in World Federation of Merino Breeders. He said this friendship will serve prosperity and strenghthening of the Federation. 

Glen Keamy has expressed assurance that new President of the Federation Robert Ashby will serve you well and that the Federation will advance under his direction. “I wish you all the very best for the future. Yours sincerely. Glen Keamy.”

 

The 8th World Merino Conference will be held in Rambouilett, France from May, 2nd till May 5th. The Conference is being hosted every 4 years by World Federation of Merino Breeders. Members of the Federation are 11 countries, including Russia (since 2009). It is the first time for Russia to take a participation in this Conference. And we are glad to inform you that our country will be represented by National Association of Sheep Breeders of Russian Federation.


The Program of World Merino Conference in Rambouillet, France.


Sunday, May 2nd 
17.00: Opening of the exhibition “Rambouillet and Bergerie Nationale” : “Story of the unique relation”
18.00: Conference at the Chateau de Rambouillet, by Evelyne LEVER, historian 
19.00: Cocktail at the Chateau


Monday, May 3rd
'Merinoscope show day’ 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Exhibit of purebred French and Spanish merino sheep; exhibit and demonstrations of stock-breeding materials and equipment; electronic identification; cutting up carcasses, preparation and tasting mutton; European shearing competition… Some of the exhibits will be held over until May 5th. Optional nights out in Paris.


Tuesday, May 4th
Registration: 8:00 – 9:30 a.m.

1st Session : The Merino and Sheep production breeding
Welcome and Chair Alain SOPENA, Director of the Bergerie Nationale de Rambouillet.
9:10 : Merino sheep and their arrival in Rambouillet (1701-1787) - Louis REVELEAU (Companions of the Bergerie Nationale).
9:40 : Merinization of flocks in France from 1787 on and the present-day management of the Rambouillet Merino flock Louis MONTMEAS (Ministry of Agriculture-DGER), Antoine BRIMBOEUF, Kevin BOISSET (Bergerie Nationale)
10:10 : Merino sheep in Spain -J.A. FERNANDEZ (FEAGAS), J.A. de QUINTANA GOMEZ –BRAVO (ANCGM)

Coffee Break : 10:40

Opening Session: 9:30 – 10:30
Mr. Nicolas SARKOZY,
President of the French Republic or by his representative, Mr Bruno Le Maire, the Minister of Agriculture,
Mr. Gérard LARCHER, President of the French Senate, Mayor of Rambouillet,
Mr Jean-Frédéric POISSON, Deputy of Yvelines,
Mr Emmanuel COSTE, President of INTERBEV Sheep,
Mr Serge PREVERAUD, President of the Sheep Breeders National Federation,
Mr. Jean Paul HUCHON, President of the Ile de France Region,
Mr. Alain SCHMITZ, President of the Council General of the Yvelines Department
Ms. Christine BOUTIN, Former Minister, Councillor of the Canton of Rambouillet
Mr. Glen KEAMY, President of the World Federation of Merino Breeders
Mr. Günther BEIER, President of International Wool Textile Organisation

1st Session (2nd part)

12:10 : Sheep breeding in Europe and France - Eric JULLIEN, Vincent BELLET (French National Livestock Institute)

Lunch : 1:00-2:30

2nd Session (2:30 - 5:00): Genetics applied to sheep-breeding
Chair Carlos Gil B. de Ubieta, descendant of the family that arranged for arrival of Merino sheep in Rambouillet (1786)
2:30 - French programme of genetic improvement and modern methods of reproduction. Application to scrapie Gilles LAGRIFFOUL (French National Livestock Institute)
3:00 -Genetics of the adaptation traits in sheep: behaviour, disease resistance, reproduction for genetic improvement, artificial insemination and adaptation to environment and markets. Dominique François (INRA SAGA Toulouse)
3:30 - Research into interesting genes - C. MORENO (INRA SAGA, Toulouse)
4:00 - Conservation of rare or limited-numbers breeds and genetic diversity - Coralie DANCHIN (French National Livestock Institute - BRG)

4:30 Coffee break

Poster Session (5:00 – 7:30)

General Assembly of the World Federation of Merino Sheep Breeders

Festive Dinner “a la Bergerie” 8.30


Wednesday, May 5th
3rd Session (9:00 – 12:30): Merino sheep and sustainable development

Chair Yann ARTHUS BERTRAND or Joseph DAUL

Methods and breeding systems associated with work, including protection from predators
9:00 - Managing rural spaces with sheep: example from Northern Europe – flora and fauna - Joan CONINGTON (Scottish Agricultural College)
9:30 - Managing rural spaces with sheep: Mediterranean example – The Arles merino sheep and transhumance: landscapes, wildfires, etc – Gérard GUERIN (French National Livestock Institute), Pierre Marie BOUQUET (INRA/ENSAM, Le Merle), Patrick FABRE (Maison de la Transhumance)
10:00 – Rambouillet Merino in the USA - Daniel Waldron (Texas Agrilife Research)
10:30 – Patagonian Merino – S. VILLAGRA, C. GIRAUDO (INTA Bariloche, Argentina)

Coffee break 11:00

Animal welfare: new rules and practices

11:30 - European regulations and future prospects (Denis Simonin, European Commission Directorate General for Health and Consumer, D5 Animal Welfare)
12:00 - Animal welfare in Europe: viewpoints of a global evaluation at farm and contributions for livestock management (Alain Boissy , INRA URH Clermont Ferrand Theix)
12:30 - Sheep transportation by road, sea. (R. Laporte, Expert consultant)

Lunch 1:00 - 2:00

4th Session (2:00 – 5:30) Merino Sheep: a quality product for the future

Chair Emmanuel COSTE, Coordination by Hubert du POTET
2:00 – Wool quality for production – Paul SWAN (Australia)
2:30 – Users’ expectations, especially for high-quality ready-to-wear and designer clothes – Peter ACKROYD (United Kingdom)
3:00 – The woolens industry in Europe – Hubert du POTET (French Federation of Woolens and Cottons Industries)
3:30 – Processing local wool in European regions, small enterprises - Marie-Thérèse CHAUPIN (ATELIER)
3:45 – The Arles Merino Antique Sheep : comfort and exceptional softness – Pierre BRUN (Manufacture Brun de Vian-Tiran)
4:00 – New uses for wool in textile techniques outside of the clothing sector – Kurt Haselwander (Allemagne)
4:30 Coffee break
5:00 – Mutton: quality and economy in the European Union Anne MOTTET, Philippe CHOTTEAU (French National Livestock Institute – National Confederation of Stockbreeding)

Close Session 5:30-6:30

Glen KEAMY, President of the World Federation of Merino Sheep Breeders
Mr. Günther BEIER, President of International Wool Textile Organisation
Alain SOPENA, Director of the Bergerie Nationale de Rambouillet

Optional nights out in Paris

 
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