Murdoch researcher wins scholarship to study sheep industry

October 27, 2011

A Murdoch University researcher has won a major scholarship which will help her investigate how Australian sheep farmers should best respond to the changing demands of food shoppers.

Dr Kelly Manton Pearce, a research fellow at the School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences and the CRC for Sheep Industry Innovation, will travel to the United States, China and Europe as part of the 16-week Nuffield Scholarship program, which is sponsored by Cooperative Bulk Handling (CBH) and CSBP.

Dr Pearce said the sheep industry in Australia had suffered in recent years because of drought and a drop off in demand. As such the numbers of sheep had dropped from 100 million head to around 68 million.

However, although the sheep industry had been weakened it now had to deal with a bolstered demand for high quality retail-ready lamb.

“This poses a large supply-demand challenge for the industry,” she said.

“I hope to work out whether the high prices for lamb due to low supply will impact on re-building potential and what the implications of the high prices are for future lamb demand.

“I want to be able to understand the market signals to enable us to balance the short term gains of selling lambs with the long term view of maintaining a good breeding stock and the longevity of one of our iconic Australian industries.”

Dr Pearce, who is herself a sheep farmer in Yealering, hopes the study will help farmers to capitalise on high prices and demand for lamb in the future.

She will meet with key current and future consumers of Australian lamb and representatives from the World Trade Organisation to better understand how demand for lamb will change as the worldwide demand for dietary protein increases.

Dr Pearce’s supervisor at Murdoch University Professor David Pethick said her study would help to shape the sheep industry.

Nuffield Australia is an organisation which provides Australian farmers the opportunity to travel overseas on an agricultural research fellowship. It consists of both group and individual travel and Dr Pearce will be among a group to visit the White House in Washington DC in July.

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