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Transition at the top of sheep wellbeing research

Thursday 24th of November 2016
Retiring Program Leader Professor Geoff Hinch
Retiring Program Leader Professor Geoff Hinch

The Sheep CRC’s Wellbeing and Productivity Program is set to go from strength to strength, with retiring program leader Professor Geoff Hinch to hand the reins to respected livestock scientist and consultant, Dr Lewis Kahn.

Prof. Hinch’s involvement in CRC activities dates back to the 1990s when he was involved with the CRC for Premium Quality Wool, before holding roles with all three Sheep CRC’s as well as the Poultry CRC and the Spatial Innovation CRC.

Throughout this period he has also held the positions of deputy head and later head of the University of New England’s School of Rural Science and Agriculture. 

Chief executive of the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC), James Rowe, said Prof. Hinch had made an immense contribution to the industry over a career spanning 35 years.

“In his time working with the Sheep CRC, Geoff has been a leader in the applied sciences of animal behaviour and welfare, as well as animal reproduction,” Prof. Rowe said.

“It is with both sadness and gratitude that we wish him farewell and all the best in his retirement, but we’re fortunate to have a smooth transition plan in place with Lewis Kahn a proven hand in delivering programs which enhance the health and performance of sheep in his years as executive officer of the ParaBoss program.”

Originally from a farm at Yerong Creek, NSW, Prof. Hinch chose to take his undergraduate studies at the UNE as it allowed him to pursue a career in agricultural science without moving to a metropolitan university.

“I didn’t necessarily want to go back to the farm, but I wanted to maintain a connection to agriculture and from there my career just evolved,” he said.

He completed a PhD at UNE in the area of cattle behaviour and meat quality, before taking a full time research role with the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries investigating high fecundity sheep – a move which brought the realisation that he would find a return to academia and teaching at UNE a more rewarding career path.

New Program Leader Dr Lewis Kahn
New Program Leader Dr Lewis Kahn

“I’ve always viewed teaching as my major role. Most of my satisfaction has come from supervising post-graduates and seeing them completing their research and move into industry,” Prof. Hinch said.

Although retiring from full-time employment, Prof. Hinch plans to continue to contribute to the development of young researchers as an academic supervisor. He is presently principal or co-supervisor of two Masters and six PhD students covering aspects of animal welfare and behaviour, and reproductive management.

During his career he has supervised more than 50 postgraduate students and has more than 200 refereed publications primarily in the area of animal science and is the joint Editor in Chief of the international journal Animal Reproduction Science.

“It’s been an incredibly satisfying career and one of the things that has made it satisfying has been the fact that I’ve been working with producers and industry all the way through, as well as the students here at UNE,” he said.

Dr Kahn will take over the role of the Sheep CRC’s Program Leader for Animal Wellbeing and Productivity from January 1, which entails coordinating a number of projects including the development of a web-based app that integrates detailed data about a farmer’s livestock, pastures, and genetics, in order to predict opportunities and threats to individual farm operations from the weather, pests or disease.

The program also includes research projects developing the use of video image analysis to identify behavioural change associated with illness and the automated measurement of body condition.  Another aspect of the program involves the investigation of wool cortisol as an indicator of animal stress with the potential to be used in genetic selection of animals that are well adapted to their environment.

In addition to his new responsibilities, Dr Kahn will continue in his role as executive officer of the ParaBoss program, which incorporates the WormBoss, FlyBoss and LiceBoss websites and acts as the industry’s independent source of detailed management information for the three major parasite risks for sheep and worms in goats.

“My experience with the ParaBoss program and as a farm consultant will be valuable in my new role as they have required an ability to bring together different aspects of sheep production, just as the Sheep CRC has been doing in developing an app for predicting animal wellbeing and productivity.

“I want to bring to bear a track record of delivery, including developing new practices that provide value to industry. I would like the app that is under development to be something that people will use and say, ‘Wow, that is really useful information that I can use to put me on the front foot in managing my business.’”


Media contact: Michael Thomson, 0408 819 666.

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