From the Homestead

A small delegation from the Sheep CRC had the privilege of attending an international conference on meat quality held in Dublin (10-11 August 2017), where a keynote paper entitled ‘Lamb grading to predict eating quality’ was presented by Dave Pethick.  It was encouraging to see that the MSA approach to predicting meat eating quality appears to be very well accepted as the best methodology.  This confirms the merit and technical basis for the investment that the CRC has made in the cuts-based grading system for sheep. 

It was also interesting to see the importance that many European countries place on the ‘extrinsic’ aspects of meat eating quality – that is, factors such as sustainable production systems and animal welfare considerations.  ASKBILL provides a framework for capturing improvements that we are making in these areas and it is an aspect that we should develop in conjunction with our stakeholders.  Another insight was the very powerful position that the Irish beef producers have achieved through a well-integrated single database with extensive phenotypic and genomic data.  This database has positioned the Irish livestock sector to make fast genetic progress.  The Australian sheep industry is well placed to achieve the same integrated database and we should make every effort to consolidate this opportunity.

There is increasing interest in the use of DNA testing in the Australian sheep industry.  It is encouraging that most current interest is in the 15K test for improved accuracy in ram selection, and for flock profiling.

Use of RamSelect has increased sharply at the start of the 2017 ram-selling season, and is significantly higher than at the same time last year.  There are a lot more ram buyers using RamSelect to plan their ram purchases and identify those sires that best suit their individual breeding objectives.  As indicated previously, there will be a fee for listing rams on RamSelect from 1 September.  Given the level of interest in RamSelect from so many ram buyers it is hoped that ram sellers will view the charges to list rams as a good investment.

Progress with ASKBILL continues and we are on track for the launch in Melbourne on 15 November. This launch will be followed by the Sheep CRC Participants Forum and AGM.

Enhanced sheep wellbeing and productivity

ASKBILL:  All the validation farms are now entered on the ASKBILL platform. The predictions are being stored for comparison with the pasture and animal data being collected on farm. One participating producer has opted to withdraw from the validation trial, but the other 11 remain committed and keen to be involved.

Service provider training is scheduled in both Victoria and South Australia for September. A selected number of service providers from WA will be invited to attend the SA event funded by the CRC.

The user interface is being continually improved based on user feedback and testing.

Quality-based sheepmeat value chains

LMY measurement and feedback:  Work is ongoing with DEXA, with a recent set of experiments testing repeatability and 50 carcases were scanned six times over three days.  The results showed very high repeatability and stability for prediction of CT carcase composition.

Two ‘Iceprobes’ have been ordered but as yet not delivered under the AMPC project for calibrating a new GR probe.

IMF measurement:  Three cameras arrived from Frontmatec (previously Carometec) and 200 lamb carcases were imaged on 17 August as part of the MLA Resource Flock slaughter at Tamworth. These images, along with chemical determinations of intramuscular fat, will be used to ‘train’ the camera for predicting IMF ahead of validation trials.

Sensory testing:  The USA grass/grain fed steaks have arrived at Texas Tech University and sensory testing will begin in September. Maddison Colette (CRC PhD student) and Dave Pethick will be at Texas Tech to initiate the testing in early September.

Planning is underway with JBS and SARDI to commence the new- versus old-season lamb testing where seven cut x cook combinations per lamb will be tested.

Lamb Supply Chain Group:  The next LSCG meeting will be in the Barossa Valley, 27-28 September.  It will be the first meeting with an expanded presence to include beef supply chains.

MSA Lamb and Sheepmeat pathways meeting:  A meeting to review and critique the modelling undertaken by the CRC on the use of carcase variables to predict the eating quality score of the loin and topside was undertaken on 27 June. The meeting endorsed the modelling approach. The basis for the new model will next be presented to the MSA task force. A key consideration is to seek advice from the task force regarding what can and cannot be published in scientific peer reviewed journals. The pathways committee agreed in principle that there should be no restrictions on publication. Dave Pethick will develop a brief paper for the task force.

MSA Sheepmeat Taskforce:  A meeting of the task force will take place straight after the next Lamb Supply Chain Group meeting will be in Adelaide on 29 September.

MLA Ewe Time:  The CRC meat program team has underpinned the first sessions of the MLA It’s Ewe Time series held at Wagga, Esperence, Northam and Hamilton on Aug 15, 22, 24 and 31 respectively. The title of the talk was ‘Lamb – meeting consumer expectations’. Many thanks to the presenters Hamish Chandler, Graham Gardner, Sarah Stewart and Dave Pethick.  Bruce Hancock has played a major role in coordinating the events.

International forums/conferences:  A two-day workshop was help in Dublin titled ‘Sustainable meat markets, cross-border trade and eating quality’.  This was a collaboration between Meat Standards Australia, United Nations Economic Commission (Agricultural Standards Unit) and Teagasc. Some 120 registrants from across the globe participated, along with 21 speakers, to discuss the crucial role consumers play in the beef and lamb value chains. The meeting clearly endorsed the principals of Meat Standards Australia as pivotal in the development of new red meat trading languages for beef and lamb in Europe and beyond. Moreover there was strong support to create mechanisms to facilitate international collaboration. The speaker slides can be viewed at and the synopsis of the proceeding will be published on the website of the French meat journal Details will be updated once publication is complete.

The annual International Congress of Meat Science & Technology (ICoMST) was held in Cork in August. There was a strong Australian presence and a highlight was Maddison Corlette being runner up for the prestigious International Meat Secretariat prize for her paper/poster titled ‘Linking colour technology with consumers’.  For those who are interested, the main papers are all included in the recent edition of Meat Science.  Past two to four page papers can now be found at the ‘Digicomst’ website,  The next ICoMST will be held in Melbourne 12-17 August, 2018 which will be the week after LambEx.

Faster, affordable genetic gain

RamSelect: The revised user pays version of RamSelect will be launched during the first week of September. For the current ram selling season 3,500 rams have already been listed in 40 catalogues, similar numbers to the same time last year. There has been dramatic growth in the numbers of buyers searching for rams on the site. For the year to date 1270 ram searches compared to 430 at the same time last year. There have been problems with the MERINOSELECT database and website for much of the last two weeks, which has affected data and sale catalogues passing on to RamSelect. The stability of the MERINOSELECT database is a serious issue for the continued commercial delivery of RamSelect and we are mindful that the recent disruptions have caused frustration for ram breeders. We are hopeful that Sheep Genetics will have the problems rectified in the near future.


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