Sheep CRC’s legacy: top 10 innovations
28 February 2019
The Sheep CRC's Final Conference will be held in Dubbo on 19–20 March.
This is your last chance to tap into the minds of the Sheep CRC’s research team and its many industry participants about new and innovative ways to improve your sheep business.
After 18 years, the conference marks the Sheep CRC’s final public event before it ceases operations at the end of June 2019.
Don’t miss this opportunity to celebrate the innovations, impacts and transformational technologies the Sheep CRC has delivered.
Click here for the full conference program and registration details.
Here we look at the top 10 innovations to come out of the Sheep CRC:
- Information Nucleus Flock (INF) – The INF involved mating approximately 100 sires by artificial insemination to 5,000 ewes each year for five years, across eight sites representative of major sheep production environments. The INF was central to the CRC’s work in delivering new and far-reaching genetic information and data for genomic predictions of sheep breeding values. While traditional production traits were also measured, new consumer-oriented eating quality traits, such as tenderness and intramuscular fat, were a prime focus. In 2011, the INF transitioned to an industry-funded model and in 2012 became the MLA Resource Flock.
- Genomic testing – DNA tests are now commercially available to assess a range of genetic traits, as well as identify parentage and specific genetic conditions (e.g. horn or poll status). These tests have been widely adopted by sheep breeders, with more than 50,000 tests used in 2018. This has resulted in accelerated rates of genetic gain through more precise selection of the genetics required to improve flock performance for productive traits and environmental conditions. One of the breakthroughs to making genomic technologies available to commercial producers was the development of the DNA Flock Profile test specifically for commercial Merino breeders, and combining it with the web-based RamSelect tool.
- Objective measurement of meat eating quality – New genetic traits were identified for carcase characteristics, lean meat yield (LMY) and eating quality. The dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) meat-grading system for estimating LMY is allowing abattoirs to accurately measure carcase LMY at line speed and has the potential to change the structure of the Australian sheepmeat industry through a shift to value-based pricing of carcases.
- Wool ComfortMeter and Wool HandleMeter – These objective measurement systems add value to traditional measurements of fabric quality, which cannot account for the effects of processing and finishing, or accurately predict comfort and softness. Used together, the instruments allow manufacturers and retailers to produce greatly improved next-to-skin garments and market these products with objective customer assurance measures.
- RamSelect – This project started as a training program providing a practical approach to using Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs). The program delivered 73 workshops to 1,389 participants, with more than 95% indicating they had a better understanding of how to make better use of ASBVs. In 2016, the popular RamSelect app was launched, which made it even easier to select superior genetics specifically matched to flock needs.
- ASKBILL – This program was designed to forewarn sheep producers about risks of cold snaps and parasite outbreaks, as well as better manage their pasture base in order to meet production targets. ASKBILL provides timely and accurate predictions of sheep wellbeing and productivity using a combination of historical weather records, short and long-range weather forecasts, biophysical models for stock and pasture production, and on-farm measurements and flock information.
- Precision technologies – Historically, shepherds looked after the whole flock. With affordable and robust technology such as fast, electronic weighing systems, electronic identification and automated drafting, producers can easily monitor and manage each animal in the mob according to its needs and merits. The precision production tools are particularly useful when used with ASKBILL forecast information.
- ParaBoss – The ParaBoss suite of products, including WormBoss, FlyBoss and LiceBoss, was developed as part of the CRC’s parasite control program and continues to be hosted by the University of New England. Innovations included the targeted treatment approach in which only animals most susceptible to worms are drenched in order to slow the development of drench resistance.
- Lifetime Ewe Management – This program sees groups of five or six producers meet in six ‘hands-on’ sessions over 12 months with a trained Lifetime Ewe Management facilitator. The group visits each participating farm and learns skills in condition scoring, pasture assessment and best practice management to increase lambing performance and wool production. Results have included increased whole-farm stocking rates by up to13%, increased lamb marking percentages by up to 14%, decreased annual ewe mortality rates by up to 43%, and increased numbers of lambs weaned per hectare by up to 30%.
- Managing scanned ewes – A total of 88 pregnancy scanning workshops were delivered around Australia and attended by 1,800 sheep producers. The workshops resulted in about 80% of attendees changing their management practices. It’s estimated that improved use of pregnancy scanning data and increased uptake of testing has led to significantly improved reproductive efficiency under many production systems.