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Sheep & their Management

Program Leader

Dr Andrew Thompson
Department of Agriculture & Food, WA
Tel: 0437 316 117
Email –

To read about the program scroll down below 'Latest Updates'.

Summer 2013-14 update

The main Program 1 activities are summarised below:

The Sheep CRC “Reproduction" Special Edition of the ‘Animal Production Science’ publication is in the final stages of editing and a second Special Edition is being considered.

Preliminary modelling of the impacts of targeted treatment strategies on delaying resistance in different environments has been completed.  The modelling shows that targeted treatment can extend the life of anthelmintic by 20 to 40% before resistance becomes a problem. The work will will be completed in Quarter 3 in conjunction with workshops with consultants and veterinarians and will be used to develop targeted treatment strategies for promotion nationally.

Planning is well underway for the National Producer Survey to be conducted involving 1,000 producers early in 2014, to determine the impact of the CRC’s research and adoption activities.

The High Rainfall Zone edition of ‘Sheep - the simple guide’ has been printed and work has commenced on the fourth version for the summer rainfall regions. This is expected to be finished by mid-April and ready for distribution by the beginning of May 2014.

Progress with development of commercial use of walk-over-weighing is slower than expected but the accuracy of data capture is improving

RamSelect and Bred Well Fed Well workshops continue to be the dominant genetics extension activities with very positive results.  Plans are in place for another 10 or so RamSelect workshops early in 2014 and 35 Bred Well Fed Well workshops.

Genetics training activities has also included one-on-one work with 12 breeders to model scenarios for implementation of genomics testing and the impact that it might have on genetic gain.

Spring 2013

Adoption activities continued to be dominated by RamSelect Workshops and capacity building in genetics. Planning has also commenced for a National Producer Survey to quantify the industry impacts resulting from the investment in this Program. The survey is expected to be completed early in 2014.

Matching genotype and production system
The High Rainfall Zone edition of ‘Sheep - the simple guide’ has now been completed and printing is being finalised. Copies of this publication will be available from January onwards. Development of a version for the Northern Tablelands, which will be the final CRC product from this project, is underway. The Ram Buyer’s Guide has proven to be very popular and all participants who have attended a RamSelect workshop in the last 18 months have received a copy.
Reproduction efficiency
The Information Nucleus Follower reproductive data for the 2012 breeding year has been added to an earlier analysis, and a revised analysis considering main effects and sire ASBVs in relation to maternal efficiency is in progress. A final genetic analysis of reproductive traits including survival in relation to 14 indicator traits will be finalised through the Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit (AGBU). Analysis of the survival status of all Followers from the 2007 to 2011 drops has been undertaken, with specific fates allocated, depending on information taken from the database and from communication with individual sites. Most extension activities relating to improving reproduction efficiency are occurring outside the CRC.

Parasite control
Draft plans have been developed for computer simulation modeling to predict the effects of targeted treatment strategies for a range of scenarios (environment, drench type, percentage not drenched, drench resistance level) on worm control and drench resistance management.  The modeling is expected to be completed in December 2013.

Genetics training
The CRC has developed and provided a first set of training resources to UNE and NE TAFE. The resources on ram selection, nutrition, reproduction and worm control will be used for teaching students the practical components of the Bachelor of Agri-food Systems course to be launched in 2014. The course will be available in distance education mode with residential schools to undertake the practical teaching units, including Sheep CRC materials. Additional resources on eID, flystrike, worms and lice will be provided to UNE and NE TAFE in the near future.

Winter 2013

The major activities in Program 1 during the last quarter were the RamSelect workshops and work towards publication of research papers documenting progress made.

Delivery of CRC products continues through programs such as Bred Well Fed Well, now funded by MLA and AWI, and LifeTime Ewe Management, funded through AWI.

There has been good use of the WormBoss and FlyBoss websites and, with support from AWI, the launch of the new LiceBoss website in June.

Matching genotype and production system

The Cereal-Sheep Zone edition of ‘Sheep - the simple guide’ has now been distributed to 2,000 growers and advisers. The Ram Buyers Guide is now available on the Sheep CRC website and also in printed copy.

Reproduction efficiency

Analysis of all data related to lamb survival has been completed. A final report which summarises much of the work related to reproduction of ewe lambs, including outcomes from the analysis of 17,000 records from 22 flocks including the Information Nucleus flock, has been submitted.

Parasite control

The ParaBoss website is now available as the single point entry for information about worms, flies and lice.  WormBoss, FlyBoss and LiceBoss have all been updated and operate on websites with similar design to make them easy to use.  Discussions with the University of New England have indicated that the tender requirements for ParaBoss can be met, and formal arrangements for future hosting are being negotiated.

Genetics training

The third Genetics Service Provider Training Workshop was held recently with 27 attendees. In total, 80 genetics service providers have attended training over the last three years and are active in providing advice to sheep breeders and commercial producers. The first CRC-hosted Genomics Workshop for Breeders and Service Providers involved with large scale genotyping, was held in May with 31 participants.  Almost 50 RamSelect workshops have now been completed with 980 sheep producers, ram breeders, agribusiness personnel and students attending. A further 15 workshops are scheduled for the next three months.

Autumn 2013

Matching genotype and production system – The Bred Well Fed Well workshops are continuing to be delivered outside the CRC. Meat & Livestock Australia and Australian Wool Innovation recently approved additional funding for 2 more years. Over 20 workshops have already been organised. The Cereal-Sheep Zone edition of ‘Sheep - the simple guide’ has been printed and over 900 copies have already been distributed. Please contact Janelle Holzberger at the CRC on 02 6773 2927 if you would like a copy. A further 200 copies of the Western Australian edition have been circulated via ‘More Sheep’ display boxes in agribusiness merchandise stores and writing and editing of the HRZ edition is well underway. 

Reproduction efficiency - An analysis of reproduction data has been completed using 17,500 records of fertility and reproductive rates of composite and Merino ewe lambs from commercial and research flocks in WA, Bestwool Bestlamb PDS in VIC and the Information Nucleus.  The analysis indicates positive effects of sire ASBVs for PWT, PEMD and or PFAT on the fertility and reproductive rate of their daughters, and the relative effects vary between composites and Merinos. These results support earlier findings and will be developed into extension information. 

Parasite control - The WormBoss website which was re-launched in November 2012 has attracted a large volume of media coverage and about 5,000 visitors per month.  About two-thirds of these site visitors were new to the site.  The LiceBoss website is due to be relaunched in June and the new ParaBoss website is expected to be ‘live’ from around July/August. There is also good progress in negotiating the transition of ParaBoss out of the CRC for long term hosting by the University of New England.

Genetics training - A total of 45 RamSelect workshops have now been delivered to 883 ram buyers, ram breeders, service providers, agribusiness and agriculture students across Australia. There are now 19 deliverers available for RamSelect workshops and additional workshops are scheduled in all states in the coming months. An accredited version of the workshop has been developed for registered training organisations and will be delivered in Victoria by Goulburn Ovens TAFE using state educational funding support and the CRC trained deliverers. A three hour version with assessment has been developed to deliver to tertiary students undertaking university practical sessions.

Summer 2013

Matching genotype and production system
This project has continued to deliver the Bred Well Fed Well program. Funding for this workshop program and its coordination will be taken over by MLA and AWI for a further two-year period. The Cereal-Sheep Zone version of “Sheep – the simple guide” is ready for printing and will be distributed in February. The Western Australian edition is now on the CRC website and a further 1300 copies have been distributed over the last 12 months. The main challenge for this Project is completion of a number of key research publications and this is now an urgent priority.

Reproduction efficiency
The alliance with pregnancy scanners continues to be very productive. A training workshop for approximately 40 scanners was conducted in November. There has also been further evaluation of the LifeTime Ewe Management program through a survey of graduates from the 2011 program. The results show similar benefits as reported for previous years with producers completing the course able to increase weaning percentages by around 10% and decrease ewe mortality by around 1 percentage point.

Parasite control
The WormBoss website was re-launched in November. There has been good media coverage and very positive feedback from a wide range of users. There has been a call for expressions of interest to host the ParaBoss program and the CRC will work closely with MLA and AWI to develop a transition plan for ParaBoss, in collaboration with the organisation that presents the strongest case in their submission. (For an introduction to WormBoss see the back page).

Genetics training
A total of 39 Ram Selection workshops have now been delivered to over 720 participants. A further 20 workshops are planned between January and June 2013. There has also been good progress in the uptake of the material for TAFE and other VET courses.

Spring 2012

Executive Summary

The Sheep & their management program has made a steady start to FY12/13 with a major focus on analysis and reporting of Information Nucleus data.

Adoption activities remain a priority. Bred Well Fed Well and LifeTime Ewe Management have been transitioned out of the CRC at the same time that the RamSelect Workshop has been developed, piloted and delivered to about 20 groups across four states.  Mark Ferguson has resigned from the Department of Agriculture & Food WA and Murdoch University to take up a role in New Zealand from November and Andrew Thompson will take over leadership of the 'Matching genotype and production system' project until the end of FY12/13. 

Matching genotype and production system

The relationships between ewe liveweight profile and birth weights are consistent with those published by Lifetime Wool for Merinos, albeit slightly smaller, and there are no interactions between liveweight profile and ewe breed or sire type. These analyses have been used to generate prediction equations relating ewe liveweight profile to lamb survival for different ewe and sire type combinations, and also establish if the main effects of ewe breed, sire breed, ewe age and other factors on lamb survival are attributed to differences in birth weight and or other variables. The economic modelling to develop ewe management guidelines for different ewe by sire type combinations has commenced and will be completed in Quarter 2.  The discussion paper will also be completed in Quarter 2 together with a paper prepared from the Reproduction Special Edition in Animal Production Science.

An additional 1000 FlyBoss CDs have been printed and distributed to extension officers, livestock consultants and Novartis regional representatives. The Novartis team have been trained by Brian Horton in use of the CD and will distribute CDs to rural resellers and provide 'on the spot' training in use of the CD for point of sale advice on chemical use. 

The updated WormBoss website will be launched on 21 November 2012. 

Genetics training

Seventeen private consultants and state agency staff located in NSW, Vic and SA have been trained to deliver RamSelect workshops. Tasmania will be serviced by deliverers from Victoria and Qld will be serviced by deliverers from NSW. A total of 22 workshops have been delivered to 351 participants, mostly commercial producers, but also ram breeders, stock and station agents and other industry service providers. A further 12 workshops are scheduled for Qld, New England and Tasmania by the end of November.

Winter 2012

Matching genotype and production system

During the last year this project has had a strong presence in industry with a total of 18 Bred Well Fed Well workshops delivered by 30th May. At least 50 additional workshops are expected to be held in the next 6 months with support from MLA and AWI. Progress with developing the ‘Sheep – the simple guide to making more money with less work’ for regions other than Western Australia has been slower than expected but is still progressing.

A paper on the value of easy-care traits such as genetic fatness, a synthesis paper, was prepared for LambEx summarising the effects of genetic fatness on improving robustness to sub-optimal nutrition, the number of lambs born from adult ewes and ewe lambs, lamb birth weight and survival and weaner survival.

Reproduction efficiency

The evaluation of the ‘Managing Scanned Ewes’ workshops confirms that this activity should be considered a major success for the Sheep CRC with close to 20% of ewes that are pregnancy scanned being owned by producers who have attended a workshop and there is clear evidence of changed practice resulting from the workshops.  The other major extension activity, LifeTime Ewe management, has also far exceeded expectations for 2011/12 with more than 600 farmers enrolled in approximately 120 LifeTime Ewe Management or High Performance Weaner groups.  Significant new funding has been sourced through AWI to enable good penetration into NSW and cereal sheep zones and this support will see the program transferred out of the CRC during FY13.

Parasite control

The redevelopment of the WormBoss website is progressing and it is hoped to launch the new site by October.  An issue emerging is the cost of WormBoss workshops - it is believed that $200 is seen by producers as a disincentive, but reducing this cost makes it unattractive to private consultants to run the courses.

There have been no additional flystrike control workshops delivered since March but the FlyBoss CD and website tools have been updated with some new flystrike chemicals and this updated package will be released soon.  Re-development of the LiceBoss website is also in progress and it is hoped that the process will be completed before the end of 2012 for a launch in early 2013. All field work on the targeted treatment concept for worm control has now ceased in both WA and SA.  The "targeted treatment" concept is still being implemented in ewe flocks on 7 farms in Victoria and SE South Australia under an MLA Producer Demonstration Site program. Over the 2010-2011 summer, an average of only 51% of summer drenches to sheep were required compared to the number normally given, with no signs of ill health or production loss.

Autumn 2012

Photo: Bred Well Fed Well workshop held recently in WA
Photo: Bred Well Fed Well workshop held recently in WA

Producer training remains the major focus in this program. Almost 5,000 producers and next-users have attended forums or training during the financial year to date.  An independent report of the pilot phase of the ‘Bred Well Fed Well’ workshops indicates that they have been very well received with 100% of producers indicating they would recommend the workshop to others. Another 12 ‘Managing Scanned Ewes’ workshops were completed recently and an evaluation of the workshops indicated an average increase in weaning percentage across all participants of 4%.  Funding from Australian Wool Innovation has enabled an expansion of Lifetime Ewe Management courses with more than 120 groups currently enrolled, with a large number of groups formed in NSW and cereal sheep zones.

Matching genotype and production system

A commercialisation plan for ‘Sheep-the simple guide to making more money with less work’ has been drafted and future developments will include refinement of the Western Australian version to cover the Cereal Sheep Zone of Southern Australia and the addition of Southern Temperate and Northern Summer rainfall versions.  This guide has been used as the cornerstone of an ‘Innovation Day’ series run by Sheep Connect in South Australia.

Progress in some research tasks has been slower than expected during this quarter, such as completing the maternal efficiency discussion paper and developing ewe management guidelines for maternals and various ewes by sire type combinations, but there has been progress to define the biology underpinning differences in liveweight change in response to poor nutrition.  A PhD study has shown that when Merino ewes were fed at about 50% of their expected maintenance requirements, genetic fatness (YFAT) was positively related to liveweight loss over a range of about 50 g/day per mm of YFAT.  Sheep with high ASBVs for fleece weight also lost significantly more weight when fed below maintenance but liveweight change was not related to ASBVs when fed at or above maintenance. 

Reproduction efficiency

A major development in this project is the proposed development of LambBoss to better coordinate reproduction products, extension and training activities.  There is limited new data from the Information Nucleus regarding genetic parameters for reproduction traits, but the Information Nucleus has contributed to a 10-20% increase in the number of sires in Sheep Genetics with reproductive performance on their daughters and improved linkage between flocks. New management protocols have been implemented to improve the reproductive performance of Information Nucleus followers which have been very poor during 2008 to 2011, especially the 8-10 month old BLMs (38% fertility over 4 years). 

Parasite control

Redevelopment of the WormBoss Website continues to progress and a launch in mid-2012 is envisaged.  Approximately 20 consultants who attended two "Train the Trainer" courses have indicated that they propose to deliver worm management workshops.  A total of 20 flystrike management workshops have been delivered for this year. The total expected to be delivered will be slightly less than the 30 expected for the financial year. The LiceBoss redevelopment project has commenced with funding from Australian Wool Innovation and a draft website design has been completed. The new LiceBoss website will be ready for re-launch at the completion of the project in March 2013.  The ParaBoss Steering Committee have agreed on a proposed model for ParaBoss, incorporating a management committee (representing major stakeholders/funders); scientific committees for worms and external parasites; coordination from an Executive Officer; and support for IP, IT and administrative functions. The next steps are to develop a Business Plan and to define the scope and identify an appropriate organisation to manage ParaBoss as an on-going program once the CRC term ceases.  The targeted treatment research and demonstration has largely been completed.  On seven properties in Western Victoria where the targeted treatment concept is being implemented under an MLA Producer Demonstration Study drenching was reduced by more than 50%.  Agreement to utilise the Novartis Animal Health computer simulation model is being negotiated with the company; the modeling is an important step to enable the incorporation of targeted treatment principles into worm control recommendations in various environments.

Return to the Autumn e-newsletter.

Summer 2012

The successful Bred Well Fed Well workshop developed and tested over the last twelve months will move into full swing in 2012 with additional funding support from both MLA and AWI. This workshop has been most successful in introducing producers and ram breeders to the benefits of using genetics in conjunction with good feed management. The CRC team has developed a number of useful tools to simplify the job of selecting rams and these will be used in conjunction with the course as it is rolled out around Australia.

The training program in Precision Sheep Management and electronic ID has now been licensed to a number of training providers and consultants. This will make it available to ram breeders and producers in all States and will coincide with increasing interest in the use of eID.

Reproduction efficiency
Participation in the Lifetime Ewe Management and High Performance Weaner programs continues to expand. There are now over 100 active groups involved in these two training programs. In addition the workshops on reproduction efficiency run in conjunction with pregnancy scanners are also proving to be of continued benefit and 15 new workshops are planned for the February – March period. From surveys of those completing the programs it is clear that many producers are making very good progress in improving reproductive performance of their flocks.

Parasite management
A new Worm Management workshop has been developed and tested in northern New South Wales during the Spring period in 2011. With positive feedback on workshop format it is now being adapted for delivery in a number of other regions. A ‘Train the Trainer’ program has resulted in a number of registered trainers who will now offer courses in most sheep producing areas. Workshops are designed to help develop management plans for those attending – based on best-practice programs for the region.

The Flystrike Management workshops are also proving to be of value to many producers and a series of workshops are planned for early 2012 in Tasmania, South Australia, New South Wales and Western Australia. Consult the web for details.

Managing methane emission
The project to screen Information Nucleus animals for variation in methane production has been completed. The results are a little disappointing in that there is less of a genetic component than initially anticipated and there are also some concerns about the accuracy of measuring individual levels of production. There is however, variation between progeny of different sires and further research is being planned to work out how best to exploit this variation.

Return to the Summer e-newsletter

Spring 2011

Matching genotype and production systems
Mark Ferguson’s project outputs have been presented at almost 20 industry forums during the quarter, including:

"The ram buyers guide", which incorporates entry level information on a range of the important ASBVs. The guide has been "road-tested" with a range of farmers and has received good feedback.

A paper based decision support tool that quantifies a commercial producers breeding objective. This tool has been refined based on inputs from the Genetics Training Initiative Steering committee, Sheep Genetics staff and after "road testing" with grower groups in the last two months.

The "Sheep – the simple guide to making more money with less work". The guide was released in WA in September and feedback is being collated before deciding how the product can be adapted and released in other states.

Completion of the discussion paper on the value of traits across different environments and production systems taking into consideration their impact on labour requirements has been slightly delayed, but a labour module has been incorporated into MIDAS and this work should be completed during Q3.

Reproduction efficiency
Interaction with pregnancy scanners remains positive with about 20 workshops conducted or planned for 2011, but interest to run more workshops is slowing. Scanning contractors training other pregnancy scanners is a new initiative that has been well received.

It appears that between 60 and 70 Lifetime Ewe Management and High Performance Weaner groups (maybe 300 producers) will be established in 2011, although it is impossible to get confirmed numbers from FarmReady. An additional 20+ deliverers have been trained in NSW and SA including 6-7 staff from Landmark.

Based on 2007 to 2010 lambing data from the INF, the latest analysis indicates that the direct heritability of lamb survival to weaning is low, with maternal heritability slightly higher. However, using information from relatives and particularly progeny, selection accuracy can be built up to a point where useful genetic gains can be made. Work has commenced estimating genetic parameters when lamb losses are partitioned into the various causes.

Parasite control
Re-development of the WormBoss Website is progressing, with the new Home Page and the overall site structure virtually finalised. All key sections of the current site are being reviewed by WormBoss National Technical Committee members and drafts of new sections are being prepared and discussed. It is hoped to have all content loaded and ready for launch before the end of 2011.

FlyBoss website usage has averaged 650 visits per month for the last 18 months. Since June 2011 a total of 10 flystrike workshops have been delivered in Victoria, SA, NSW and Qld. Additional workshops are planned in the coming months including WA and Tasmania. The development by Brian Horton of the CD based version of the FlyBoss tool has been a very popular addition to the workshop for scenario planning to consider alternative shearing and crutching dates and chemical applications to reduce that risk. Five hundred FlyBoss CDs have been printed and distributed to date.

Methane emissions
The screening of the Information Nucleus Flock followers was completed in March 2011 and the data from that screening is being analysed. A preliminary summary has been presented at the full scientific review of the RELRP program that was held in Brisbane in July and the CRC have responded to the comments that were made by the Review panel. The analysis of data relating intake to methane production for more than 1000 individuals will form an important component of the validation of butter-box method used to screen the Information Nucleus Flock. Preliminary data is suggesting differences in digesta kinetics between high and low methane emitters.

Winter 2011

Matching genotype and production system
The “Bred Well Fed Well” workshop focuses on use of the genetic technologies to improve breeding and appropriate feeding to maintain condition score for improved reproduction. This new workshop has been piloted in WA, VIC and QLD, helping producers and breeders to improve genetic progress and maintain condition score for improved reproduction. Another 8–10 workshops will be run in July to September with existing producer groups.

Decision support tools to support the use of ASBVs for commercial producers and inclusion in genetics training (see Project 5.2) are continuing. Also further refinements to an analysis to value different genetic traits in a whole farm context have occurred since a workshop in late March.

A print-ready draft of the publication ‘Sheep – The Simple Guide to Making More Money with Less Work’ has been finalised and is being tested with WA producers. The publication aims for easier sheep production with less labour.

Eight papers were accepted for AAABG and an additional paper reviewing opportunities to improve maternal efficiency was accepted for publication in Recent Advances in Animal Nutrition.

Reproduction efficiency
A total of 55 ‘Managing Scanned Ewes’ workshops for 1200 clients of pregnancy scanners have been completed. A formal evaluation of the workshops is in progress and the feedback from participants will help develop plans for its transition to full cost recovery training in 2012/13.

A total of 97 LifeTime Ewe Managerment (LTEM) or High Performance Weaner (HPW) groups are currently enrolled. More than 800 producers that have previously indicated their interest in undertaking further training relating to improving reproductive performance have been contacted regarding forming LTEM groups. These courses have been largely funded by the federal government’s FarmReady Program with assistance from Australian Wool Innovation and the Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia Food. In 2011/12 FarmReady will require producers to pay 35% of accredited training. Other delivery options including full cost recovery, reducing the number of training sessions from 6 to 4 or 5 per annum and closer linkages with Making More From Sheep are being considered.

A preliminary genetic analysis for lamb survival to weaning on the 2007-2010 IN data has been completed. While heritability is low, these analyses indicate greater scope to select for maternal ability affecting lamb survival than when selecting for lamb viability itself (direct heritability). Key messages relating to genetic opportunities to improve reproductive performance are under development.

Parasite control
A national telephone survey regarding parasite control practices has been undertaken involving 1,000 producer respondents. Also an AWI-MLA funded follow-up survey to the Integrated Parasite Management (IPM) benchmark survey on parasite control practices has also been approved. These surveys will provide powerful information on both baseline and changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills, aspirations and practices related to worm and fly control.

Completion of the new WormBoss website has been delayed but it is expected to be completed in Q1 of 2011/12. Delivery of worm control workshops in the northern summer rainfall zone were piloted in March. The workshop material has been revised and producer-pay workshops will begin running out in Q1 of 2011/12.

Delivery of 40 flystrike workshops between Feb 2010 and May 2011 exceeded expectation, involving almost 1000 producers. The targeted worm treatment research has been mostly completed. Three refereed journal papers on the Haemonchus research have been submitted with a fourth in preparation, and outcomes from the southern Australian work have been presented at an International parasitology conference in Argentina.

There has been good progress by Jen Smith on the Worm Egg Count (WEC) and Dag Score (DAG) data from the INF. Heritability estimates for WEC were moderate at all age-stages. Trends in genetic correlations among WEC measurements at different ages were inconclusive so it is unclear whether WEC can be regarded as ‘the same trait’ at different ages. Phenotypic and genetic correlations between WEC and DAG at individual age-stages were generally low. This indicates that DAG is not a reliable indirect selection criterion for internal parasite resistance. There is also some indication that WEC genetic parameters are different for Merinos and maternal breeds.

Methane emissions
All data relating to methane production is being contributed to National Carbon Accounting System. Two papers have been submitted to AAABG on the use and validation of the short-term method to assess daily methane production of sheep. This information was also presented at the Greenhouse Global Research Alliance workshop in NZ in May-11 and research groups in both NZ and the UK will invest in the portable chambers.

A preliminary analysis of estimated DMP data from screening 2300 INF followers from five sites has been summarised before 30-June and the outcomes from the complete analysis of this data will determine the future direction of the work and funding targets in this area. An analysis is also underway to consider the suitability of using shorter test periods but more measurements are required.

Physiology-type work relating to digesta kinetics and characteristics of microbial communities and daily methane production are on-going.

An analysis of most data relating to feed intake, residual feed intake (RFI) and methane production from the facility at Medina has been analysed and suggests: large sire effects on these traits, some significant correlations with carcass traits which require confirmation; and no significant correlation between RFI and estimated daily methane production.

About the Program

Current Australian sheep industry productivity gain is estimated to be 0.7% per year and the goal is to increase this by over 10% to average 0.8% per year for at least 20% of sheep managed. The net present value if this gain is estimated to be $266 million over 25 years.

This program addresses key industry issues of labour efficiency and profitability, reproductive efficiency and animal welfare, parasite control and chemical use and environmental impacts of sheep via greenhouse gas emissions. Program 1 will deliver:

  • Better adapted sheep and improved management systems, based on decision tools and strategies that use information more effectively;
  • Targeted management, nutritional and genetic solutions to improve reproduction efficiency for different enterprises and regions, through improved ewe, lamb and weaner survival;
  • Improved parasite control and more effective use of chemicals through use of new diagnostic and management tools; and
  • Clear guidelines for government and sheep producers on the scale of abatement in greenhouse emissions achievable by genetic and management decisions.


This program is also critical to achieving the outcomes from the other Sheep CRC Programs.

Business Case

The business case for Program 1 is based on delivery of three major outcomes to the sheep industry:

Outcome 1 – Improved sheep management and decision making. Better adapted sheep and improved management, based on decision tools and strategies that use information more effectively will deliver a 10% increase in productivity by 20% of producers. Projects to improve the match between sheep genotype and the requirements of the region, production system and management, and specifically the importance of availability and cost of labour, and to reduce methane emissions will also contribute to achieving this outcome and to making the sheep industry more competitive in an emissions accounting environment.

Outcome 2 – Improved animal welfare and increased reproduction rates. Improved management of ewes, lambs and weaners is expected to result in 10% increase in net reproduction rates in 25% of Australian ewes.

Outcome 3 – Improved parasite control and more effective use of chemicals. Improved disease control and more efficient chemical usage will reduce costs, reduce chemical residues and protect markets, through use of new detection and management tools and is expected to result in 10% increase in productivity on 30% of farms.
Measurement of the adoption targets will be through monitoring of the extent to which new genetic information is delivered through Sheep Genetics and by evaluation of changes in producers, consultants and service providers' behaviors, management practices and advice in response to outputs from Program 1. The net present value of the improvements in on-farm productivity delivered by Outcomes 1 to 3 in the form of faster genetic gain and better management of reproduction and parasite control is expected to be $157 million over 15 years.

Autumn 2011

Matching genotype and production system
Project staff have been heavily involved in the development of implementation strategies following completion of the Genetics Training Needs Analysis in February (see Project 5.2). Modelling has been completed to estimate the value of production, disease and resilience traits for 3 regions and the outcomes have been the focus of two workshops with consultants, MLA, SG, AGBU and others. The process has delivered some immediate outcomes on how Number of Lambs Weaned is valued by SheepObject and has highlighted several areas where further work is required. A review of the underlying biology of potential ways ewes could lose less weight is in progress and will inform any further modelling. MLA have funded a project submitted by Murdoch University for further development of MIDAS to enable labour use to be handled more appropriately and modelling incorporating labour has been postponed until these changes are made. Eight papers have been submitted to AAABG (including five by PhD students) and one to Recent Advances in Animal Nutrition.

Reproduction efficiency
The Wean More Lambs module in Making More from Sheep has been updated. About 500 producers are involved nationally in almost 100 LTEM groups. An evaluation of 182 producers with almost 1M ewes that participated in LTEM in Victoria recorded improvements in whole-farm stocking rates by 14% and lamb marking percentages by 12 to 15%, depending on enterprise type, and decreased annual ewe mortality rates by 44%. The estimated benefits from participation in LTEM in Victoria exceed $10/ewe per year. A workshop is planned to coincide with AAABG in Perth in July to develop key messages with respect to genetic opportunities to improve reproductive performance.

Parasite control
Good progress continues with development of the technical content for the revised WormBoss website and the Managing Sheep Worms workshops. There has been an unavoidable delay in the launch of the updated WormBoss site as the web developer is not available until June. The Managing Sheep Worms workshops have been road-tested with producer groups in Northern NSW. A draft Business Case indicating the roles and structure of ParaBoss has been produced and forms part of a proposal to AWI to support the migration of the WormBoss and LiceBoss sites to the CRC for updating. Final Reports for the "Northern" and "Southern" targeted worm treatment research have been completed. The results of these investigations will form the basis for demonstrations of the approaches to be undertaken in consultation with local sheep industry consultants. To December 2010 a total of 29 flystrike management workshops had been delivered and a further 20 workshops are planned nationally for the period March to June 2011. The Flystrike Management workshop material has been updated with the latest R&D from the AWI breech strike breeding trials. A draft Discussion paper based on analysis of the parasite data from the INF has been produced by Jen Smith, describing genetic relationships and correlations for worm egg counts and dags scores for the 2007, 2008 and 2009 lamb drops.

Methane emissions
The validation between the 1 hour short-term measurement method to screen for methane emissions and the 22 hour methane chamber measurements method has been completed on over 100 animals at two different sites, with the correlations being 43% in NSW and 54% in WA. Screening of over 2300 INF followers from five sites in three states has been completed. Work to identify differences in physiology and rumen ecology between high and low methane producers has indicated that the methanogen communities differed significantly between individual sheep with different methane production at the time the rumen samples were collected. Key results will be presented at an International Workshop on Animal Selection, Genetics and Genomics for Greenhouse Gas associated traits to be held in Auckland NZ on 16-17 May 2011.