This study details the production performance of ewes and lambs that originated from a terminal crossbreeding experiment that involved five Merino type dam lines and two terminal crossbreeding sire lines from 1999 to 2002. Ewe lines were SA Mutton Merino (SAMM), SAMM rams crossed to Merino ewes (SAMM cross), Dohne Merino, as well as specialist Merino lines selected for clean fleece weight (FW+) and for an increased reproduction rate (Rep+). Dormer and Suffolk rams were used as sire breeds on these ewes. Data include 777 birth and 605 weaning records of lambs and 562 production year records of ewes. At birth the progeny of SAMM ewes were heavier than those of the other ewe lines, while FW+ ewes produced smaller lambs at birth than SAMM cross and Rep+ ewes. Lamb survival was not significantly affected by ewe line or sire breed. The progeny of the dual-purpose ewe lines (SAMM, SAMM cross and Dohne Merino) were heavier than those of Merino ewes (FW+ and Rep+) at weaning. No sire breed difference was found for birth or weaning weight. The joining weights of dual-purpose ewe lines were higher than those of Merinos. Although considerable variation was found between ewe lines in terms of lamb output (number or weight of lamb weaned per ewe joined), the only significant difference was for weight of lamb weaned between SAMM cross and FW+ Merino ewes. Means for weight of lamb weaned per joining (in kg) were 37.3 for SAMM ewes, 39.6 for SAMM cross ewes, 35.5 for Dohne Merino ewes, 28.9 for FW+ ewes and 34.6 for Rep+ ewes. No differences in ewe reproduction were found between ewes joined to Dormer or Suffolk rams. The clean wool production of SAMM ewes amounted to 46% of that recorded in FW+ ewes. Corresponding percentages were 68% for SAMM cross ewes, 74% for Dohne Merino ewes and 90% for Rep+ ewes. The wool of SAMM ewes was slightly coarser in diameter than those of SAMM cross and FW+ ewes, which in turn was coarser than those of Rep+ and Dohne Merino ewes. The economic viability of crossbreeding programs involving the respective ewe lines would depend on the ratio between the prices of wool and lamb. No conclusive advantage could be demonstrated in favour of any of the sire breeds.
"Experientia docet" - Experience is the best teacher