Livestock

New report shows impact of research and development on sheep reproduction

By Rodney Woods

An independent impact assessment of sheep reproduction research, development and extension in Australia since 2012 has been released by industry bodies, showing its impact on improving sheep reproduction outcomes.

The recommendations from the assessment will help guide future investments that will occur through the Sheep Reproduction Strategic Partnership to ensure the delivery of the highest impact outcomes for the sheep industry.

The approach will support striking the appropriate balance between new R&D investment and adoption-focused programs of work.

The impact assessment reviewed 120 industry projects and initiatives against the objectives of the Sheep Reproduction Research, Development and Extension Investment Plan 2012-2017 and other industry strategies.

The industry-initiated assessment provides a thorough impact assessment of investments, identifies key impact areas, remaining gaps, and makes recommendations for future industry collaborations.

Beattie Consulting Services and Inspiring Excellence were engaged to undertake the assessment by Meat & Livestock Australia, on behalf of project partners, Australian Wool Innovation and Animal Health Australia, with input from peak industry councils, Sheep Producers Australia and Wool Producers Australia.

Among the assessment's key findings is that since the inception of the investment plan in 2012, a considerable amount of sheep reproduction R&D has generated new knowledge demonstrating pathways to improve reproductive outcomes.

However, there remains a significant opportunity to boost adoption to increase reproduction efficiency on-farm.

Relative to what was recommended in the investment plan, the proportion of total expenditure on sheep reproduction has been 83 per cent higher on applied research, 40 per cent lower on development and extension, and 55 per cent lower on strategic research.

The overall objective of the investment plan was to achieve an average annual gain of two per cent in sheep reproduction rates over the five-year planning period.

The assessment found the average annual rate of gain was between 0.6 per cent and 1.5 per cent during that period.

However, it found the rate of gain was highly likely to have been negatively influenced by below-average seasonal conditions during the investment plan delivery period.

The assessment also found that since 2012, the Lifetime Ewe Management program, supported by AWI, has had the most influence on sheep reproduction efficiency, impacting the management of around six million ewes over six years.

The Sheep Reproduction Research, Development and Extension Impact Assessment final report is available at: https://www.mla.com.au/research-and-development/search-rd-reports/final-report-details/Sheep-reproduction-RD-E-impact-assessment/4471