[ASC-media] Media release: sheep hit the fast lane

JCA Media jca.media at starclass.com.au
Fri Dec 22 02:54:11 CET 2006

Sheep CRC Media Release

December 22, 2006

Sheep to hit the fast lane

Australia's sheep are headed for a rapid revolution in easy-care, wool comfort and delectable meat.

Powerful new technology to transform the Australian sheep flock will come from the new CRC for Sheep Industry Innovation, which was announced today by Minister for Education Science and Training, Hon. Julie Bishop.

Five thousand ewes in 'information flocks' across Australia and 20,000 genes in special arrays are the launch-pad for what researchers say will be the biggest and fastest leap in sheep value and quality since the Peppin brothers.

The new CRC team will comb the national sheep flock to find the right genes and identify breeding values for:
-	easy-care sheep, with high lamb survival rates and good welfare characteristics
-	a wool fleece designer-bred for luxurious wearer-comfort
-	pure-white wool, for textile end-use versatility
-	meat that is perfectly specified for the healthiness, nutrition, flavour, aroma and tenderness demand by today's discerning consumer. 

Ian Sinclair, Chair of the existing Australian Sheep Industry CRC hailed the new CRC as a vital advance for the industry. "We are delighted with the outcome. It's clear that the first Sheep CRC has made its mark and that potential gains and national importance of the new CRC have been recognised by the Commonwealth Government's Cooperative Research Centres Programme."

Ian Feldtmann, past President of the Sheepmeat Council of Australia and chair of the Industry Steering Committee that led the rebid process said, "The cohesion of a sometimes fragmented industry has been remarkable. All sectors of the Australian sheep industry have been solidly behind the CRC renewal bid and this has been one of the great strengths of the application."

Preparation of the rebid application started in August 2005 with an industry meeting that identified the need to transform sheep and their management, transform wool for greater market appeal, and transform sheepmeat to move it ahead of competitive products.  

Professor John Gibson (Director of The Institute for Genetics and Bioinformatics based at the University of New England) coordinated the application with major research groups and peak industry bodies including AWI, MLA, AMPC, the Sheepmeat Council of Australia and WoolProducers.

"The main feature of the new Sheep CRC will be a concerted effort to transform the rate at which new technology is adopted by the industry. We will ensure that there is a genuine customer focus and an understanding of market needs in defining the research.

"We have built in strong end-user participation and consultation and this will continue at all stages of research design and implementation. With support from the NSW Government we will be setting up a specialist group to ensure that this aspect of the new CRC receives top priority," Professor Gibson said.

An ambitious nationwide program of genetic screening-which only a CRC could undertake-will combine data from a comprehensive set of measured characteristics with extensive genotype analysis to yield revolutionary DNA-based breeding values for accelerated genetic gain.

The program will link with Sheep Genetics Australia and the Sheep Genomics program, both of which are partnerships between AWI and MLA. Work will start with a multi-site breeding program in February 2007. 100 industry sires have already been selected. 

The new CRC will also build on precision sheep production systems developed in the current Sheep CRC. The combination of new technologies is expected to produce rapid gains in productivity, lean meat yield, next-to-skin comfort for wool, and many 'difficult to measure' characteristics.
The new CRC has 20 partners including the peak industry bodies, all state departments of primary industries, three prominent sheep industry consulting companies, feed and technology companies, two universities, Australian Meat Processor Corporation and the industry research companies Australian Wool Innovation and Meat and Livestock Australia. AWI and MLA have each committed $10 million to R&D in the new CRC over the next seven years. With the Commonwealth's investment of $35.5 million, this gives a total cash budget of over $55 million. Add the in-kind allocation of research staff and the value of the commitment to transforming the sheep industry is well over $100 million, over the next seven years.

The new CRC for Sheep Industry Innovation will be located at the University of New England. Vice Chancellor Alan Pettigrew stated, "I am keen to ensure that there is close cooperation between the new Sheep CRC and the Beef and Poultry CRCs, which also have their headquarters at UNE. It is an amazing achievement to have the three livestock-based CRCs with their headquarters at UNE and it is a wonderful opportunity to capitalise on the consequent synergies."

James Rowe, CEO of the existing Sheep CRC continues his role as CEO designate for the new CRC. The experience of the existing Sheep CRC management team will ensure a smooth transition.

Contact: James Rowe, CEO, Australian Sheep Industry Cooperative Research Centre, ph 02 6776 1465 or 0418 810 130; james.rowe at csiro.au Deb Maxwell, Sheep CRC, 02 6773 3597 or 0407 376 463
deborah.maxwell at une.edu.au
Web: http://www.sheepcrc.org.au/ 


Further information: 

Released by: Heidi Hoffman, Australian Sheep Industry Cooperative Research Centre, phone (02) 6773 2927, email heidi.hoffman at une.edu.au  Internet: www.sheepcrc.org.au 

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