Enhanced sheep wellbeing & productivity

Program Leader

Dr Lewis Kahn
University of New England, Armidale
Tel: 02 6773 2997
Email – lkahn3@une.edu.au

To read the latest Program updates click here.

About the program

The average annual mortality rate of adult sheep run on commercial properties is around 4%. Many factors are known to contribute to the risk of death and compromised wellbeing, such as poor nutrition, parasite infection, pregnancy and lambing. It is difficult to quantify these risks and it is also difficult to manage the impact of the risks due to the between-animal-variability that exists in large flocks and difficulty of monitoring the condition of individual animals. Welfare indicators and risk for each sheep in the flock can be assessed at key times in the year such as at shearing, pregnancy scanning, joining and weaning but there is currently little use of objective information for management decisions at these times.

The development of big data technologies facilitates modelling and prediction of the major risks to wellbeing that are largely determined by climatic condition both historic and future.  Regularly updated models predicting pasture production, parasite development cycles and risk of flystrike can produce accurate information for better nutritional management and parasite prevention.

The hypothesis behind the research program is that better use of information on body condition, weight change, genetic background and previous production history can be used in conjunction with bio-physical models to better manage sheep and improve both wellbeing and productivity.

Program Structure

There are two areas of research that contribute to a new approach to better management of sheep for improved wellbeing outcomes. 

Activities under R1.1 focus on development of a web-based app that utilises climate data, supplied by the Bureau of Meteorology, to drive predictive models for a range of ‘environmental’ risks that include: worms; flies; heat stress; extreme cold; and pasture production (feed sufficiency).  The app will also provide predictions regarding susceptibility of different segments of the flock to different risks as well as identifying well adapted and productive animals.

Activities under R1.2 include new technologies for monitoring animal wellbeing such as:  video image analysis (behavioural change, dags and flystrike); body temperature change; and automated body condition measurement.

It is anticipated that the outputs from the two Projects will be integrated under a single set of utilisation activities (U1.1), to allow proactive management of wellbeing through understanding the risk faced by individual animals at different times during the year.


Through web-based data management and the collaboration with companies specialising in on-farm data collection, new algorithms for data use will be incorporated into a data platform and proprietary software to allow processing of information and subsequent delivery of decision support information to producers. This will provide a major advance in the ability to use livestock data and information to manage sheep according to their needs and production potential.

The concept of using physiological measures such as cortisol levels in the wool fibre to better understand stress in relation to changes in productivity will also be investigated.

The development of monitoring systems that can be used in conjunction with risk analysis and production data will also facilitate better management and culling decisions. Monitoring systems development will include support of Participants involved in the development and evaluation of walk-over weighing and investigation of prediction of condition score using 3-D image analysis of sheep post-shearing.

The program will also review the welfare standards for grazing animal management in terms of the expectations of our major trading partners.


The program is designed to reduce on-farm mortalities from 4% to 3% in adult animals in the same year that the management system is introduced and it is anticipated that there will be flow-on benefits in terms of better lamb survival and increased productivity. Gains in productivity through within-flock selection are expected to increase average gross margin by around $3 per ewe within three years of commencement. It is anticipated that there will be increased expenditure on measurement and data analysis ($0.90/ewe), as well as additional costs of supplementary feeding ($6/ewe for 20% of the flock). Benefits from better management decisions leading to reduced mortality are anticipated to be realised in the same year that practice change occurs with an estimated value of $1.0/ewe under management. Benefits resulting from improved productivity are predicted to increase over a 10 year period from first application of the CRC outputs. A whole of industry benefit is also expected through active communication about our innovative approach to enhance sheep wellbeing.

Practical Wisdom Notes / Fact Sheets

PW1.1 Enterprise Management Series

In this series:

  1. Optimising stocking rate - the key to increasing pasture utilisation and profit - November 2006

  2. Profitability of sheep enterprises in southern Australia - November 2006

  3. Lambing at the right time in southern Australia - the first step to increasing sheep profits - November 2006

PW1.2 Nutrition Series

In this series

  1. Options for light weight spring lambs - November 2006

  2. Sorghum grain for lot feeding of sheep - March 2007

  3. Feedlot calculator - March 2007

  4. Feeding grain and hay separately in lamb feedlots cheap and effective - April 2008

  5. The Cowra Bale Feeder for hay and roughage feeding - April 2008

PW1.3 Reproduction Series

In this series:

  1. Managing ewes for joining
  2. Managing ewes in late pregnancy
  3. Managing Merino weaners
  4. The value of pregnancy scanning
  5. Successful pregnancy scanning

PW1.4 Parasite control in sheep

In this series:

  1. WormBoss: Australia's sheep worm control resource
  2. FlyBoss: resources for integrated flystrike control in Australian sheep
  3. LiceBoss: Australia’s sheep lice control resource

PW1.5 Precision Sheep Management

In this series:

  1. Profiting from Individual Electronic Identification (eID)

  2. Pedigree Matchmaker - determining dam pedigree

  3. Individual Electronic Identification (eID)

Products & Training Resources

eID Case Studies

Individual Animal Management Learner Guide 2007

International Sheep and Wool Handbook

Making more from sheep

Parasite Control in Sheep Training Guide

The Internal Parasite Control in Sheep Reference Manual and Trainer Guide has been developed by Sheep CRC and NSW TAFE to allow vocational and education trainers (primarily in the TAFE, Agricultural College and School systems) to deliver up to date knowledge and skills in the area of sheep worm control to their students. It is designed to be used in conjunction with a Power Point presentation, also produced by the Sheep CRC and NSW TAFE. This guide has been designed to be used in the national competency elements:

Reports, Articles and Presentations

ASKBILL for a crystal-clear look at the future

Managing sheep health can be complicated and it can often seem that a crystal ball would be a good tool to have at your disposal so you could predict the future - By Jill Griffiths.

Building apps for the grazing livestock industry

Wednesday 22 February 2017, 3:00pm
Biological Sciences Lecture Theatre (S003)

A symposium on the development of web-based apps designed to provide information about complex grazing systems was held on 22 February 2017.  Drawing on a broad range of expertise in livestock production, soils, pastures, data science, simulation and machine learning models the apps form a natural collection point to connect science with practice.

These are the presentations from that symposium:

News Releases

RamSelect drives demand at Ella Matta ram sale
The genetic selection app RamSelect was a key plank of the promotional platform for the Ella Matta White Suffolk and Merino stud which recorded its best-ever sale results late last year. The Kangaroo Island stud recorded its highest grossing sale, its highest ever top-priced ram at $16,000, and an improved overall average of $1459 / ram, despite increasing its sale offering by more than 10% to 200 White Suffolks, 40 Poll... Click Here To Read Full Article » https://www.sheepcrc.org.au/information/news/ramselect-drives-demand-at-ella-matta-ram-sale-08-02-2018.php
MERINOSELECT now mainstream practice and growing fast
Use of the objective genetic assessment tool, Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs), has grown so rapidly in the Merino industry in the last five years that close to 50% of all Merino rams are now sold by studs that are members of MERINOSELECT. Recent analysis by the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) reveals that studs in MERINOSELECT now provide around half of the Merino rams used by... Click Here To Read Full Article » https://www.sheepcrc.org.au/information/news/merinoselect-now-mainstream-practice-and-growing-fast-02-02-2018.php
DNA Flock Profile test takes gut feel out of farming
DNA testing has taken the guesswork out of breeding for Victorian sheep mixed farmer Todd Martin, who now has a clear picture of how his flock compares to the rest of the industry and the decisions he needs to make to improve its performance. Click Here To Read Full Article » https://www.sheepcrc.org.au/information/news/dna-flock-profile-test-takes-gut-feel-out-of-farming-15-01-2018.php
DNA Flock Profile cements the foundations for new flock
Developing a flock with the right mix of genetics can take generations to perfect, but DNA testing has put Geelong sheep and wool producer Jack Briscoe on the fast track to success. Mr Briscoe is only a year into breeding his own Merino flock after branching out from his sheep contracting business by cobbling together a mixture of 800 home-bred and yard-bought ewes as his breeding base. Click Here To Read Full Article » https://www.sheepcrc.org.au/information/news/dna-flock-profile-cements-the-foundations-for-new-flock-28-11-2017.php
Science in plain English the challenge for meat industry postgrads
The next generation of leading meat industry researchers are armed with the knack of translating complicated science into everyday language, following an industry training workshop last week. Some 24 post-graduate researchers sponsored by the Sheep CRC, Meat & Livestock Australia and Australian Pork Limited, converged in Sydney for a week-long professional development course, which featured two-days of intensive... Click Here To Read Full Article » https://www.sheepcrc.org.au/information/news/science-in-plain-english-the-challenge-for-meat-industry-postgrads-14-11-2017.php
Faster sheep DNA testing with new Australian GeneSeek lab
Sheep breeders using DNA testing to improve their genetic selections can look forward to faster turnaround times for test results thanks to Neogen Corporation’s decision to establish a genomic testing laboratory within Australia. GeneSeek Australasia, a wholly owned subsidiary of United States-based parent company Neogen, has acquired the assets of the Animal Genetics Laboratory (AGL), based at the Gatton campus of the... Click Here To Read Full Article » https://www.sheepcrc.org.au/information/news/faster-sheep-dna-testing-with-new-australian-geneseek-lab-04-09-2017.php
Dramatic increase in early season searches on RamSelect
Inquiry for rams through RamSelect has never been stronger with a dramatic increase in the number of buyers searching the site so far this season compared to last year. More than 1129 ram searches were conducted on RamSelect during July, compared to just 154 at the same time last year. Click Here To Read Full Article » https://www.sheepcrc.org.au/information/news/dramatic-increase-in-early-season-searches-on-ramselect-22-08-2017.php
Deep dive into what drives success on ASKBILL
The insights of sheep producers trialling the new ASKBILL app are set to drive a new wave of innovation ahead of its full commercial release in November. The Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) has appointed experienced sheep industry professional Mary Goodacre to the task of working with users to identify opportunities to take the ASKBILL to the next level. Click Here To Read Full Article » https://www.sheepcrc.org.au/information/news/deep-dive-into-what-drives-success-on-askbill-01-08-2017.php
DNA testing to drive new era of ewe competitions
The traditional ewe competition is set to enter the innovation era with the inclusion of DNA Flock Profile tests as part of next year’s Doug Bicket Memorial Ewe trial in Parkes, NSW. The Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) will provide DNA profiling for all flocks entering the 2018 competition, currently valued at $800 plus GST per flock, as a means of supporting improved genetic selection... Click Here To Read Full Article » https://www.sheepcrc.org.au/information/news/dna-testing-to-drive-new-era-of-ewe-competitions-18-07-2017.php
The predictive power of ASKBILL immortalised in song
An off-the-cuff comment and a spur of the moment decision to “have a go” have resulted in the sheep industry’s new predictive app, ASKBILL, being brought to life in song by Uralla musician Rhonda Brooks. Performed in a bush ballad style by Coffs Harbour musician Mal Winckle, the track is proving a popular addition to the ASKBILL website, helping to capture producers’ imagination as to the possibilities on offer... Click Here To Read Full Article » https://www.sheepcrc.org.au/information/news/the-predictive-power-of-askbill-immortalised-in-song-10-07-2017.php
Click Here To Read More News Articles »

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