New skills-based taskforce to drive genetic improvement

05 October 2016

Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) has announced a new skills-based taskforce to drive the direction of the National Livestock Genetics Consortium.

The taskforce contains a range of representatives from across the livestock genetics industry, including producers who are at the forefront of genetic evaluation, improvement and adoption.

Seven of the eleven positions on the taskforce are from the production sector. The research sector is represented by two of the best minds in Australian research, Professor Ben Hayes from University of Queensland (UQ) and Dr Sigrid Lehnert from the CSIRO.

The major breed societies, who are significant contributors to the Consortium, are represented through Brett Coombe and Peter Parnell.

The skills-based taskforce will be jointly chaired by Richard Norton, MLA Managing Director and Dougal Gordon, NSW Department of Primary Industries. MLA has also provided Michael Crowley, General Manager – Producer Consultation and Adoption, as the interim Executive Officer.

The new National Livestock Genetics Consortium Taskforce members are:

  • Michael Lyons - Beef producer, ‘Wambiana’ Charters Towers, Queensland (Northern beef producer)
  • Tom Gubbins - Te Mania Angus, Hexham, Victoria (Southern beef producer)
  • Mark Mortimer - Centre Plus Merinos, Tullamore, NSW (Merino producer)
  • Tom Bull - LAMBPRO seedstock, Holbrook NSW (Prime lamb producer)
  • Peter Parnell - CEO, Angus Australia (representing breed societies)
  • Brett Coombe - Treasurer, Australian Brahman Breeders’ Association (representing breed societies)
  • Dr Sigrid Lehnert - CSIRO (representing research sector)
  • Professor Ben Hayes - University of Queensland (representing research sector)
  • Tom Maguire - Teys Australia (representing feedlot/processors)
  • Gerard Davis - General Manager, Innovation & Technology, Australian Agricultural Company (AACo) (vertically integrated company)
  • Sam Harburg - North Australian Pastoral Company (NAPCO) (Composite beef commercial producer)

The new taskforce will focus on delivering disruptive new genetic and genomic technologies, address the adoption barriers in the delivery of genetic research, development and adoption (RD&A) across the Australian red meat value chain, a national genetic and genomic data platform that supports a culture of data sharing across the red meat value chain and world leading results in genetic improvement and adoption.

The taskforce will also decide which cattle and sheep genetics research projects should be recommended for funding to the MLA Board.

The formation of the skills-based taskforce follows a decision by the MLA Board at its last meeting not to proceed with the full implementation plan developed by the Consortium’s Implementation Committee.

A subsequent meeting of investors and livestock genetics industry stakeholders was held in Brisbane last week to discuss priority areas for funding. Following this, nominations to join the taskforce were opened and considered by a selection committee using a skills-based matrix.

MLA Managing Director Richard Norton said this new model of collaborative research, development and adoption delivery will ensure Australia remains at the forefront of technological advancements in genetics.

“The taskforce contains an outstanding balance of some of the best minds in the genetics field representing the breadth of the industry including researchers, breed societies, integrated businesses and feedlot/processors,” Mr Norton said.

“There is a strong producer representation – with a great mix of northern and southern producers from across both beef and sheep sectors.

“All of these producers are recognised as innovators in our industry, demonstrating cutting edge techniques and practices in their enterprises. They will ensure that adoption is at the forefront of decisions being made by the Consortium.”

Mr Norton said it was critical to set a clear direction for the future of genetic RD&A given the speed at which technology is developing and changing around the globe.

“There is a need to be far more agile and proactive in exploring disruptive technologies to accelerate productivity gains and data delivery. The MLA Board was clear in this vision for the Consortium – and this taskforce will drive that agenda,” Mr Norton said.

The taskforce will immediately get to work to allow the new funding process for the period from now until 2020 to get underway.

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