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Sheep reproduction RD&E impact assessment

Did you know MLA is collaborating with multiple industry bodies to create a Sheep Reproduction Strategic Partnership?

Project start date: 24 September 2019
Project end date: 20 October 2020
Publication date: 24 August 2020
Livestock species: Sheep, Lamb
Relevant regions: National
Download Report (3.1 MB)

Summary

Improving lamb survivability is a key priority for Australian sheep producers, to ensure the health and wellbeing of flocks and to maintain the productivity and profitability of individual enterprises.

This project reviewed 120 sheep reproduction research, development and extension (RD&E) projects to assess the benefits, costs and impacts of current and recently completed sheep reproduction RD&E and identify any remaining gaps.

The project report details the value propositions, industry investment, project achievements and key gaps in research regarding the efficiency of sheep reproduction in Australia. The results of this review will help guide the industry in developing new strategies and initiatives to further improve reproductive performance of sheep.

Objectives

The primary objectives of this project were to:

  • review and assess completed and ongoing industry projects and initiatives against the objectives of the Sheep Reproduction RD&E Investment Plan 2012-2017 (SRRIP) and other industry strategies.
  • assess, define and make recommendations for future industry collaborations and research and/or adoption gaps
  • review the predicted economic impact of investments made to date.

Key findings

  • Since 2012, the Lifetime Ewe Management program has had the most influence on sheep reproduction efficiency, impacting the management of around 6 million ewes.
  • Seasonal variation has a considerable impact on ewe reproduction rate, which makes it difficult to accurately assess the impact of investment in RD&E on national sheep reproduction outcomes.
  • All projects that had a clear adoption output and pathway returned a net present value to industry of $93.40 million, with a benefit cost ratio of 5.2.
  • Total investment in sheep reproduction RD&E for projects contracted during the SRRIP investment period (2012 - 2017) was $20.71 million, which is 16% less than the $24.70 million recommended in the SRRIP.
  • Relative to what was recommended in the SRRIP, the proportion of total expenditure on sheep reproduction has been 83% higher on applied research, 40% lower on development and extension, and 55% lower on basic research.
  • In general, stakeholders believe that research to date has provided answers to several sheep reproduction issues, however that knowledge has not been well applied and adapted to facilitate broad industry adoption. Also, stakeholders believe that the level of funding allocated by the industry to sheep reproduction RD&E is considered to be inadequate to achieve the desired outcomes.

Benefits to industry

The key industry benefits from increasing ewe reproduction rate include increases in:

  • the size of the national flock
  • the sustainability of the supply chain
  • animal health and welfare
  • environmental sustainability
  • industry productivity and profitability.

Greater investment in increasing lamb survival and reproductive rate of ewe lambs can also assist in meeting the industry’s target of being carbon neutral by 2030.

MLA action

Meat & Livestock Australia acknowledge the support and funding contributions of Animal Health Australia (AHA) and Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) to this project. The input and support provided by representatives from Sheep Producers Australia (SPA) and Wool Producers Australia (WPA) throughout the review process is also gratefully acknowledged. These companies share a commitement with MLA to increasing lamb survivability through industry RD&E and adoption of relevant on-farm management practices.

Alongside industry partners, MLA is in the process of forming a Sheep Reproduction Strategic Partnership to address ongoing priorities related to sheep reproductive performance with a significant focus on leveraging previous research outcomes.

Future research

The review identified a range of current gaps in sheep reproduction RD&E and opportunities for improving industry collaboration in the future. A detailed series of recommendations has been provided in the project report for addressing these gaps and for capitalising on identified opportunities in regards to:

  • investment planning
  • key gaps in sheep reproduction RD&E
  • monitoring and evaluation of current and future projects
  • effective delivery, adoption and extension of research outcomes
  • collaboration between different funding organisations and producer companies across the industry.