Collaboration between industry and research participants of the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) is giving farmers new technological tools to aid them in the age-old practice of sheep breeding.
The Sheep CRC counts sheep breeders, producers, processors, retailers, researchers and industry advisors among its 41 participants: Meat and Livestock Australia, Australian Meat Processors, Sheepmeat Council of Australia and WoolProducers Australia represent key industry stakeholders; Murdoch University, the University of New England, and the Western Australian, Victorian and New South Wales state governments contribute a wide range of research expertise.
The Sheep CRC combines digital technology with DNA testing, and uses climate information and biophysical models to provide farmers with better access to data to help inform their decision-making around managing healthy and productive sheep.
The first of the digital products released by the CRC was RamSelect. This is a web-based genetic selection app that helps take the guesswork out of selecting rams with the exact genetics that match the breeder’s purpose – whether that be wool production, meat quality or other factors that affect the profitability of a flock. Farmers are able to compare sheep from across Australia via an intuitive and easy-to-use platform to ensure their rams are carrying the right combination of genes.
The real-world usefulness of RamSelect Plus is best demonstrated by the fact that sheep breeders are embracing it in droves. About 14,000 rams from 180 studs were listed on the website within the first five months of its launch. Now in its third year, it is transitioning to a user-pays model to ensure that it can continue to be delivered in a commercially sustainable way beyond the life of the CRC.
The Sheep CRC demonstrates the key role that well-focused collaboration can play in developing complex and innovative technologies with the potential to revolutionise farming practices; all farmers and producers can benefit from access to accurate, reliable and predictive data for decision-making.