WPA drives new innovation through Sheep CRC in 2017

2017 has delivered a series of new innovations from the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC), which are set to change the way sheep are produced.

Two major initiatives developed by the Sheep CRC in 2017 were the ASKBILL app, and a new DNA Flock Profile test for Merino breeders.

A pre-commercialisation trial of ASKBILL was launched in May 2017 and attracted more than 150 producers who have supported the app’s development through analysing its predictions and ease of use on their own properties.

The web-based app was developed with input from WoolProducers Australia with the goal of providing sheep producers with critical information for making sheep management decisions to protect the wellbeing of their flock and maximise productivity. It draws on information generated by biophysical models that use daily downloads of

climate data and weather forecasts to provide alerts in relation to key factors that can affect sheep production:

  • Flystrike
  • Pasture production and feed budgets
  • Live weight and condition score
  • Worm infection, and
  • Extreme weather events – heat and cold.

The predictive capabilities of ASKBILL, and the fact that it is customized for individual farms and the sheep that they run, means that it can be used to complement producers’ expertise and experience in order to help with management decisions.

The trial results have been encouraging with the app now on track for commercial release around April 2018. Feedback from the producers participating in the trial version is now being incorporated into the app design, while further work is being conducted with the Bureau of Meteorology to incorporate longer-term weather forecast components underpinning the risk predictions and production forecasts.

Merino producers will also hear more about the Sheep CRC’s DNA Flock Profile test in 2018 following a successful pilot program in 2017.

The test involves randomly sampling 20 young ewes for DNA testing, with their genetics then linked with animals of known breeding values from the Information Nucleus database. These linkages support a prediction of the flock’s average breeding values, which are then scaled to Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) for major Merino traits, such as yearling weight, fleece weight and fibre diameter as well as the selection indexes for Fibre Production, Merino Production and Dual Purpose production.

Producer participants in the flock profiling pilot trial found the test extremely valuable in identifying the strengths and weaknesses of their flocks and using this information to adjust the selection criteria they use on RamSelect to obtain the right genetics for advancing their business.

All producers who purchase the test are given a free 12-month ram manager account on RamSelect which allows them to use their Flock Profile results and ram team data when undertaking future ram searches and purchases.

The Sheep CRC has also moved to place RamSelect on a commercial footing so that it can continue to deliver its valuable service to industry beyond the closure of the CRC in June 2019. Studs can develop their catalogue and list directly on RamSelect or via the Sheep Genetics sale catalogue system at a cost of $3.50 + GST per ram – great value when compared with other advertising options.


Media contact: Michael Thomson, 0408 819 666.