Duncan Fraser
Duncan Fraser

From the Homestead

Our Chair, Duncan Fraser, has completed his three year term and the Participants’ Selection Committee has nominated current Director and Chair of the Finance & Compliance Committee, Ian Wilton, to take on the role of Chair.  The selection requires ratification at the Annual General Meeting on 15 November 2017.  Duncan has made an immense contribution to the Sheep CRC over the last three years in bringing together and holding together a diverse range of Participants.  We thank him for his contribution and wish him every success in his future endeavours.

The CRC has completed all reporting obligations for the 2017 financial year and a copy of the Annual Report has been forwarded to all Participants.  An electronic copy of the Annual Report is available on the Sheep CRC’s website at

As reported under Program 1 ‘Enhanced sheep wellbeing and productivity’ the launch of ASKBILL will be delayed to early 2018.  This will allow implementation of the updates and new features in response to feedback from those involved in the pre-commercialisation user trial.  The delay will also allow incorporation of the long-term weather forecast data.  Details of the new launch date will be circulated as soon as possible.

Next month’s Participants’ Forum provides a good opportunity to report on progress being made in the research programs and in the transition planning.  Outcomes from a meeting of the Essential Participants on 6 October 2017, and progress being made by a CRC-MLA working group, will be reported.

Enhanced sheep wellbeing and productivity

Feedback collected from users of ASKBILL is being used to make changes to ASKBILL that will improve its usability and functionality.  ASKBILL is in a class of its own when it comes to daily updated predictions of pasture, livestock, health and weather risks. A key aspect of the predictive ability will be the use of improved weather forecasts from the Bureau of Meteorology.  The operational delivery of these forecasts has been delayed and as a result the CRC has decided to postpone the commercial release of ASKBILL until the forecasts are available, which is expected to be early in 2018. 

Data collection from the validation farms in WA, SA and NSW continues where pasture and sheep performance are being measured and compared with ASKBILL predictions.  This activity will soon be sufficiently progressed to allow the team to evaluate and improve ASKBILL and provide an update on progress to Participants and to the users of the trial version of ASKBILL.  Training of service providers in the use of ASKBILL has been completed in South Australia and Victoria.

Further information about ASKBILL is being reported through publication in industry conferences and journals.

  • A paper was presented at the Recent Advances in Animal Nutrition conference (26 October 2017) with a written paper published in Animal Production Science.
  • Two papers have been accepted for the 2018 Australian Society of Animal Production (ASAP) meeting.

Quality-based sheepmeat value chains

Progress with LMY measurement and feedback

  • Work is ongoing with DEXA – the next task will be to compare results from carcases measured by DEXA at the JBS Bordertown and Brooklyn plants.
  • The AMPC project for making a new GR probe - two ‘Iceprobes’ have been ordered but as yet not delivered.

Progress with IMF measurement

  • Three cameras have arrived from Frontmatec. Some 400 lamb loin images along with samples for chemical determinations of intramuscular fat have been collected and are being used to ‘train’ the camera for predicting IMF. In addition 150 images will have related data from full sensory testing.

Sensory testing update

  • The USA grass/grain and short vs long aged product is about 70% complete with respect to sensory testing. Depending on the results an extra steak maybe used for further work on flavour analysis.
  • The first new versus old season lamb (20 head of each) slaughter and cuts collection was undertaken at the JBS Bordertown plant on 6-7 October, when eight cut x cook combinations per lamb were collected. These were comprised of rib rack, boneless forequarter, boneless leg for roasting, short loin, round, rump, outside, and topside for grilling. There will be four more replications of this experiment.

Lamb Supplychain group

A LSCG meeting was held in the Barossa Valley on 27-28 September.  New partners, Teys Australia and Frews, were welcomed to the group

Sheepmeat Task Force meeting

This meeting was held on the 29 September.  The key industry body with broad representation across the lamb and sheepmeat value chain endorsed the new MSA cuts-based approach.  The Task Force also agreed that judicious publication in the scientific literature was important.

Faster, affordable genetic gain

A meeting was held in October with the Armidale and Melbourne teams to review next steps.  The team plans to do further work on methods to reduce the number of selected SNPs needed for additional prediction accuracy.  Reducing a few thousand to a few hundred will make it easier to add them to the low density SNP chip. We also will design experiments to test the potential to predict across breeds, and to predict in smaller breeds. The current Resource Flock project contains animals from breeds such as Southdown and Hampshiredown. 

Following a message in the Sheep Genetics newsletter, we have had some information about animals with genetic defects including cases of hypotrichosis.  We have followed up and collected DNA and tissue samples, aiming to find a causal variant that can be the basis of a DNA test.  We are also collaborating with UniSydney and NSW DPI to find a causal variant for CVS (Cervicothoracic vertebral subluxation).

Tom Granleese is working with MerinoLink and SuperWhites to help design investment in genotyping.


RamSelect moved to a user pays system on 19 September.  This has caused some reduction in the number of catalogues listed on the site.  Importantly, there have been 3,365 ram searches undertaken so far this ram selling season. The cost of listing rams, $3.50 plus GST, compares very favourably with commercial advertising rates online and through print media.

Purchasing a RamSelect user account for $25 plus GST allows ram buyers to store their breeding objective and ram team data. Benchmarking the ram team is an excellent way to track genetic progress and to set benchmarks for future ram purchases.  The strong interest in ram buyer accounts is encouraging.


DownloadDownload Sheep_CRC_News_-_October_2017.pdf (642 KB)