Profitable sheep programs win major awards

June 2, 2014

A Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) program led by a Murdoch academic has won two major awards at the 2014 CRC Association Awards.

Two different projects in the program led by Associate Professor in Animal Science, Dr Andrew Thompson, received the awards.

The ‘Managing Scanned Ewes’ program received the CRC Program’s Star Award for high-level engagement with small and medium sized businesses.

The program delivered 90 scanning workshops around Australia to 1800 sheep producers, resulting in around 80 per cent of attendees going on to change their management practices.

It is estimated that improved use of pregnancy scanning data and increased uptake of testing has led to an additional 500,000 lambs born per year, which translates to a 15 per cent increase in reproduction efficiency.

The ‘Ram Select’ initiative received the award for Excellence in Innovation.  This program provides a ‘hands-on’ practical approach to using the latest breeding technologies to enable sheep breeders to maximise genetic gain and therefore profit from their wool and meat businesses.

Ram Select trained 31 industry providers who delivered 70 workshops to 1400 sheep producers, and 85 per cent of participants indicated they would use breeding values to select rams in future.

Murdoch University’s PhD student, Honor Calnan, also experienced success at the awards, being named a finalist in the CRCA’s Showcasing Early Career Researchers competition.

Ms Calnan’s research has shown that improving the colour stability of lamb meat through changes in diet, breeding and meat packaging could hold the key to enhancing the retail appeal of lamb to consumers.

Lamb meat currently has a retail shelf life of only two days before browning starts to occur, representing a major challenge for the lamb supply chain.

Ms Calnan’s PhD investigated factors influencing the oxidative process of lamb browning, identifying practical methods such as feeding vitamin E and selective breeding that can improve the colour stability and thus value of Australian lamb.

Sheep CRC chief executive James Rowe said the quality of finalists in all of the CRC Program award categories were a testament to the impact of the Commonwealth’s CRC program.

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