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Sheep Production


To increase the profitability and sustainability of woolgrowing.


As a result of AWI's investments Australia's woolgrowers will be:

  • Widely utilising pre-operative pain relief for invasive procedures, or welfare enhanced alternative procedures.
  • Lifting the average weaning rate in Merino-Merino joinings.
  • Reducing the impacts and costs of wild dog and other vertebrate pests on Australia’s woolgrowers.
  • Increasing the genetic and phenotypic aspects of lifetime economic performance of ewes in wool enterprises.
  • Strengthen wool’s reputation for environmental stewardship.

Strategies for 2016/17 to 2018/19

Healthy, Productive Sheep:

Improving wool sheep health, welfare and productivity represents the greatest overall opportunity for on-farm R&D for the benefit of the Australian wool industry – both in terms of delivering productivity gains and improved profitability, but also in terms of protecting and enhancing the international reputation of Australia’s woolgrowers as custodians of the world’s largest population of Merino sheep.

Sheep Health & Welfare program targets:

  1. Pre-operative pain relief available for routine surgical procedures.
  2. Breech modification alternatives commercialised.
  3. Development of an ASBV for faecal consistency, so fostering development of non-allergenic genetic resistance to internal parasites.
  4. Improved laboratory diagnostic testing for worms and larvae.
  5. Sustained increase in grower utilisation of the ParaBoss website.
  6. Wool bale decontamination and disinfection procedures developed.

Vertebrate Pests Control program targets:

  1. Effective national and regional coordination of vertebrate pest control effort in sheep producing areas.
  2. 15 new community based vertebrate pest control groups established each year, bringing to a total of 150 group supported by end 2018/19, with the value of avoided stock loss (sheep) greater than costs to woolgrowers and AWI combined.
  3. National release of RHDV K5, and successful development of RHDV strains of enhanced virulence.

Reproduction program targets:        

  1. An extra 1500 AWI-funded participants complete LTEM (500 per annum), increasing their lamb weaning rates by 7%, reducing ewe mortality by 30%, and lifting to 35% the LTEM graduate share of the adult ewe flock in Australia.
  2. At least 250 producers engaged in determining the impact of lambing density (ewe mob size and stocking rate) on lamb survival.
  3. At least 200 producers engaged in developing the strategies and guidelines for improving weaner and maiden ewe performance.
  4. Undertake market research on a range of producer and industry segments to inform: (i) strategies that enhance producer engagement, (ii) design/pilot extension approaches that increase adoption of best practice, (iii) more thorough evaluation of whole farm impacts of LTEM, and (iv) quantify the degree and reasons for Merino ewe displacement.

Genetic Improvement program targets:               

  1. At least 3,800 Merino ewe progeny being evaluated for lifetime productivity across at least four regionally representative sites, in partnership with Australian Merino Sire Evaluation Association.
  2. Routine, low-cost per head alternatives to genomic parentage technology in wide commercial use for mothering-up Merino lambs.
  3. Australian sheep breeders maintain access to consolidated and improved wether trial, central test sire evaluation and MERINOSELECT databases.

Farm Automation & Software Development:

Labour use efficiency is an important contributor to farm profitability, and seasonal labour availability constraints have been shown to limit important profit drivers as stocking rate, but can also impact on sheep health and welfare. More significantly and specifically, the wool industry suffers by comparison to other livestock enterprises due to the frequency of hands-on sheep management and harvesting activities.

Farm Automation & Software Development targets:

  1. Develop and demonstrate across sheep production systems smart sheep ear tags capable of generating maternal pedigree, automatic geolocation, and welfare alerts, and integrating with virtual fencing advances.
  2. Integrate pasture feedbase assessment technologies into digital farm management tools.

Feedbase & Fibre Advocacy:

Improving wool’s reputation as a sustainable textile, healthy for both consumers and the planet is an increasing priority for the Australian wool industry. Critical review of raw material supply chains is an ongoing process by brands and retailers with those supply chains considered to be environmentally harmful at risk of being overlooked.

Feedbase and Eco-credentials program targets:

  1. Generate significant improvement in wool’s environmental footprint ratings, and strengthen wool’s reputation for environmental stewardship.
  2. Through better understanding of constraints to grower investment in pasture renovation, increase adoption of beneficial feedbase practices with currently modest adoption rates – reaching 20% of all growers by 2018.
  3. Prepare woolgrowers for the effects of climate change - by 2019, 50% of woolgrowers will have implemented climate change mitigating or adapting technologies without loss of profit.

Fibre Advocacy program targets:

  1. Internationalise studies demonstrating that Merino base layer garments ameliorate chronic skin conditions associated with microclimate management of the skin.
  2. Demonstrate that wool bedding and sleepwear improves sleeping conditions.
  3. Support development of product market opportunities in categories such as corporate wear, safety wear, medical product and infant wear.
  4. Develop specifications for next-to-skin wear to improve reliability and consumer confidence in Merino baselayer garments.

Further Information

For further information about AWI's strategic priorities, refer to AWI's Strategic Plan (PDF 4Mb).