Sheep Industry Business Innovation



Welcome to the Sheep Industry Business Innovation (SIBI) project newsletter.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) is proudly delivering this Royalties for Regions project, to support the sheep industry to capitalise on growing markets for sheep products.

If you have any suggestions for how we can improve this newsletter we’d love to hear from you at

Breathe new life into your sheep business at our Katanning open day

DPIRD's Robin Jacob and Murdoch University's Maddison Corlett at the 2017 Open Day

The 2018 sheep research open day, ‘Farmer wants a life’, will be held next month at our Katanning Research Facility, hosted by the department in partnership with the Sheep Alliance of Western Australia (WA).

‘Farmer wants a life’ is about maximising the work/life balance by getting the most out of your sheep enterprise through using the latest technology, emerging research and management techniques for sheep.

The open day will be held on Thursday 22 March at the department’s Katanning Research Facility, on Nyabing Road.

The event hopes to build on the success of last year’s ‘Bewety and the Feast’ open day which hosted more than 185 sheep industry participants, including producers, researchers, students and other industry stakeholders.

Department Director of Livestock Research, Development and Innovation Bruce Mullan said “This is now an important event on the sheep industry calendar. Last year’s event proved the value in giving producers the opportunity to interact directly with researchers in a practical setting.

“Seeing research in action is the best way to stimulate discussion and networking amongst those involved in all parts of the sheep value chain.”

A range of expert speakers from government and industry have been lined up to present, including SIBI’s Beth Paganoni, who ensured her 2017 presentation entitled ‘EweTube; Let Siri do the sheepwork’ was interactive by dressing in an eye-catching retro tutu and wig combination, and creating ‘Siri’s rave cave’ with fox deterrent lights doubling as makeshift disco lights in her ‘data disco’.

This year promises to be just as interesting, with Beth’s co-presentation with Amy Lockwood titled ‘Call the midwife!! Let’s minimise lambing strife’. She said of this year’s presentation, “Big mobs mean big mortality, especially for twins. An extra 100 ewes means an extra 2% dead lambs. Cut those lambing mobs down, cut those losses”.

Other presentations include:

  • Sheep parasites: not only affecting your sheep’s bottom, but also your bottom line – Danny Roberts, DPIRD
  • Tough mothers: chewing the fat. The value of whole body energy stores in your breeding index – Sarah Blumer, Murdoch University and John Young, Farming Systems Analysis Service
  • Sins of the father: the hidden mysteries of maternal genetics – Dave Rubie, Smartshepherd
  • Sheep passports: Where they have been? What did they do? (& with who?!) Use individual animal data to get the details – Nathan Scott, Achieve Ag Solutions

More speakers will be announced soon and added to the Farmer wants a life webpage.

Morning tea will be available from 9:30am, with the program running from 10.00am - 4.30pm, and a sundowner to follow.

RSVPs are essential to this free event.

Register online at Farmer wants a life or contact SIBI Development Officer Julia Smith at or phone +61 (0)8 9892 8450.

Sheep program gives students industry insight

At a field visit in Kojonup are Justin Hardy, of DPIRD, Robert Kelly of Kojonup, Jamie Nykiel (Murdoch), Clair Payne (Murdoch), Jie Deng (UWA) and John Crabb, of Livestock Shipping Services

Department sheep specialists delivered an intensive five-day training program to tertiary students in January, immersing them in the exciting and diverse Western Australian sheep industry.

The Sheep Meat Value Chain training program, designed by the SIBI project, focused on sheepmeat production and markets. Now in its second year, the course aims to encourage young agricultural enthusiasts to pursue a career in the agrifood sector by exposing them to the industry.

Of the 20 participants that took part in the residential program in Albany and Katanning, the majority are currently studying or working in the sheep industry in WA.

The podcast below highlights a conversation between Alice Ritchie (Agriculture Victoria), Kate Pritchett (DPIRD) and Dale Miles (V&V Walsh) during the course, discussing the state of the WA sheep industry and what they think its future holds.


SIBI’s Senior Development Officer Justin Hardy said the course, expanded this year to include new entrants to the industry, was run in partnership between the SIBI project team and the University of Queensland’s agrifood specialist Professor Kim Bryceson.

“The course was a balance between the theoretical concepts of agrifood supply chain management delivered and facilitated by Professor Bryceson and an intensive ‘walk-the-chain’ process incorporating field visits and presentations from key industry practitioners and leaders,” he said.

Participants experienced all levels of the chain from sheep production (genetics, breeding, and nutrition), feedlots, trading, processing, value-adding, retail and live export, as well as the role of support agencies including the department and Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA).

The participants visited sheep farms to hear about aspects of animal production. They visited Fletchers International WA abattoir at Narrikup, the Live Export Depot at Kojonup, the Katanning Saleyards, and heard about the WAMMCO and V&V Walsh supply chain models and met with local butchers. They were exposed to emerging technologies that can be applied to the sheep industry, and cooked up a storm in a specialty chef masterclass on the preparation of lamb meals.

“Looking at the whole chain enabled the participants to consider a wide range of supply chain issues for both domestic and export of sheep meat including consumer demand and preference, markets, production systems, animal welfare, quality assurance, traceability, pricing, trust, business structures and product development,” said Justin.

“The program gave participants a sound understanding of relevant theory and technologies with topics including innovative marketing, the role of blockchain trading, the trends and challenges of meeting market demand and turning risks into opportunities,” he said.

The program included working in groups towards a competitive presentation on the last day which looked at what the current state of the chain was and what the future state should aim to be via a sustainable business plan.

Claire Payne, post graduate in animal science from Murdoch University, said she thoroughly enjoyed the course. “It was good to see and hear about all aspects of the supply chain to get a good understanding of how it all links. Working on the assignment was a good way to get us thinking about the future of the sheep industry.”

Justin said the winning group’s presentation ‘Virtual Shepherd – tag along with us’ reported on the development of an innovative supply chain management app from farm to fork.

“The group identified the need for simple traceability and product information making the most of data collection and future technology,” he said. “The purpose of the app would be to bring all sheep farming records and management into one place to streamline the supply chain process for all stakeholders.”

In reflection after the course James Carter, recent graduate from University of New England and prime lamb producer from New South Wales said he was grateful for the opportunity and that it “changed my thinking of the sheep meat value chain, [and] with the changes in the agricultural sector the knowledge gained will greatly enhance my future.”

Rams with Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) are on the rise


ASBVs are a necessary tool to determine which ram has the most appropriate genes to pass onto their progeny and in the longer term increase the rate of genetic gain not only for individual flocks but for the Australian sheep flock as a whole.

Since the inception of the SIBI project three years ago, department staff have been working closely with studs and commercial producers to increase the adoption of ASBVs, one of the fundamental genetic tools that will enable producers to increase the productivity of their sheep enterprises.

SIBI Development Officer Melanie Dowling said “At the close of the 2017 ram buying season the proportion of rams sold at auction with ASBVs are up 5.2% compared to 2014, however, the number of studs at those auctions has decreased.

“This suggests that even though there are fewer studs at auction, those that are there are increasingly using ASBVs and are selling more animals overall.”

The proportion of Merino rams sold at auction with ASBVs is much lower than the terminal and maternal breeds. Both the Merino and terminal/maternal breeds have seen an increase in rams sold with ASBVs between 2014 and 2017 with the Merino’s increasing from 22.7% to 29.1% and the terminal/maternal breeds increasing from 60.8% to 71.9%.

The rise in proportion of rams sold with ASBVs demonstrates a steady increase in adoption of ASBVs in the WA sheep industry. The Merino industry still has a long way to go in terms of adopting ASBVs and there is also still room for improvement in the terminal and maternal breeds however producers are increasingly seeking rams with ASBVs to improve and speed up the genetic gain of their flocks. 

Melanie added, “The recent introduction of the DNA Flock Profiling tool which allows commercial producers to benchmark their flock and get an average ASBV figure for the major production traits provides an excellent launching pad for producers wanting to start buying rams with ASBVs.

“As EID technology and sheep handling equipment become more affordable and improved there has never been a better time for late starters to move towards adopting ASBVs.”

Throughout the lifespan of SIBI, 87 producers have attended a RamSelect workshop, 57 producers have attended a Bred Well Fed Well workshop and 23 studs have attended a DataSmart workshop. 

The next DataSmart workshops are being held in Katanning on 27 February and 1 March with electronic identification and Excel training on 28 February. 

For more information, or to register, please contact SIBI Development Officer Bec Butcher,

Case study of the month: South’s EID investment drives productivity north

Clayton South, Wagin, uses his EID stick reader to scan for information regarding his mixed age Dohne ewe flock.

The use of electronic identification (EID) is making commercial sheep producer Clayton South’s life a lot easier when it comes to managing his 6500-strong Dohne ewe flock.

Owner: Clayton South
Property location: 30 kilometres east of Wagin
Property size: 4000 hectares
Stock: 5000 dohne ewes mated to dohne rams and 1500 dohne ewes mated to terminal rams
Technology: Electronic identification

The Wagin farmer first invested in the technology in 2014, in the hope of gaining efficiencies and making more money from his sheep enterprise.

Today Clayton is certainly glad he did, because the equipment – making the task of collecting data more accurate, easier and faster – has allowed him to improve the productivity and profitability of his business.

He likens it to yield mapping within the cropping side of his farm business, which indicates the production from particular areas of land. “We want to see what each individual animal is producing.”

“We’ve recently trialled proximity sensors on a group of our maiden twin ewes and ewe lambs that have raised lambs,” Clayton said.

“The sensors match the lambs up with the ewes and we have recorded weaning weights for all the lambs.

“Since then the ewes have been fleece weighed and once we've got all the data together we will have calculated a gross income produced per ewe that includes the weight of lamb weaned and kilograms of wool grown.

“We’ll also compare this to their joining weight to see how efficient they are.”

Thanks to a fully automated sheep handler with automatic weighing, three-way drafting and EID reading capabilities, together with a stick reader, the main Dohne flock is managed with a strong focus on high fertility and a premium is put on twinning ewes. Ewes not suited to the central flock are drafted out and joined with White Suffolk rams for prime lamb production.

The main aim is to ultimately produce a ewe that can wean her own bodyweight in lambs by 15 weeks as well as cut a five kilogram fleece come shearing time.

Clayton is also using the EID system to improve the reproductive performance of his flock, improve lamb weight management and allow for opportunistic ewe lamb breeding.

At pregnancy scanning he uses his stick reader and an ‘autorecord’ board to compile a list of dry, early single, late single, early twinning and late twinning ewes.

The electronically collated data is used to manage his flock – feeding extra to twin bearing ewes and retaining the early twin ewes as the core breeding flock while making a season-by-season decision about the fate of the rest.

At lamb marking a panel reader on the side of a Lambox electronic lamb weigh system calculates individual lamb weights as they drop from the cradle as well as at weaning time.

Using this information Clayton calculates the growth rate of all of his ewe lambs, retaining the faster growing lambs to use in his breeding program and giving himself the option to draft-off the quicker growing and heavier ones to mate as ewe lambs and profit from extra lambs that year.

“If a season gets tough we can instantly work out which animals are off the farm first,” he said.

“If we are constantly breeding replacements from our better performing animals I have confidence we are improving production.”

Business case

Agricultural economist Peter Rowe said his recent case study on the implementation of the technology by Clayton shows that over 10 years the financial return from investing in EID technology will yield $6.60 for each dollar spent.

If the full cost of the handler is included then net present value drops to $3.50 for each dollar invested over six years.

He also said that in poor seasons the benefits become even more significant because Clayton can sell sheep on the basis of quantitative measures rather than age or visual assessment – some of the best genetics and performance attributes may still reside in his older sheep. 

“EID is helping Mr South to get to the point where he knows the economic value of each ewe and following from that which are the most (and least) profitable,” Peter said.

“The biggest economic challenge for commercial producers considering investing in the technology would be the size of their operation – smaller operators have to spread the cost over less ewes.”

For more information on this case study, please contact Development Officer John Paul Collins,  


Disclaimer: Mention of product names should not be taken as endorsement or recommendation.

SIBI support revitalises Lifetime Ewe Management in WA


The Lifetime Ewe Management (LTEM) training course provides sheep and wool producers with the knowledge and skills to better manage their sheep flock to improve productivity and profitability.

In the course, participants learn to accurately condition score their ewes to ensure they are in good condition to optimise productivity through increased conception and lambing rates and reduced ewe mortality. They also learn how to assess pastures to determine feed on offer, allowing for regular feed budgets to be completed.

On average, past LTEM participants improved the number of lambs weaned per hectare by 30%. This was achieved through a 15% increase in ewe stocking rate, a 50% reduction ewe mortality and a 15% increase in weaning rates.

The course, run nationally by Rural Industries Skills Training (RIST) and funded by the Australian Wool Innovation (AWI), has had over 4000 participants Australia wide. WA however has had a rather underwhelming participation rate, with only 363 producers completing the course prior to 2016.

SIBI’s Lifetime Ewe Coordinator Brydie Creagh was brought on to drive participation at a local level.

“In collaboration with AWI, RIST and the WA Sheep Alliance, SIBI funded a subsidy program to encourage greater participation rates in WA and established this role for a dedicated WA coordinator for the program, both to drive adoption and act as a single point of contact for all WA LTEM stakeholders” said Brydie.

“The success of these initiatives is already obvious, with 2017 recording a significant increase in the number of groups established throughout the state, and with new demographics being reached. Group establishment increased from just five groups in 2016 to 29 in 2017, with a total of 196 participants.

“I can also report a large increase in groups in areas with previously low participation rates, including around Esperance-Ravensthorpe, and north of Perth in the Northampton-Binnu area.”

With participation numbers improving over the past year, there is hope that higher sheep and wool prices will continue to drive interest in the course, and allow for the target of 300 WA participants to be enrolled by the end of 2018.

To register your interest in LTEM for 2018, or learn more about the course, visit the webpage or contact Brydie Creagh at

Market opportunities for dry aged sheep meat


Dry ageing has been a common way for butchers to preserve and tenderise meat for centuries and involves storing meat for an extended period of at least 21 days, usually without packaging. SIBI is investigating the market opportunities for dry aged sheep meat as part of a larger joint project with Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA). 

The process of dry ageing

Ageing is an important contributor to the eating quality of meat regardless of the way it is processed. Meat Standards Australia (MSA) graded lamb should be aged for a minimum of five days when sold fresh. Since plastic wrapping became common in the mid 1970’s, ‘wet ageing’ has been the norm; where the meat is sealed in plastic for storage. This allows for minimal moisture and weight loss, and tenderisation occurs due to enzymes naturally present in the meat.

With dry ageing the ageing period is extended to improve tenderness and flavour.  With the correct temperature (<2°C, ideally -1 to 0°C) and humidity conditions (75-85%) a dry crust forms on the surface of the meat, and this prevents bacteria and mould growing whilst the meat tenderises.

Compared to lamb, meat from older animals can be tougher and stronger in flavour, hence there is potential to use an extended ageing period to improve this product. A disadvantage is a reduction in weight due to moisture loss and increased trim compared to wet ageing, so a premium price is required to make the product viable.

Figure 1 The dark and dry surface of a mutton loin undergoing dry ageing

Market opportunities

Department Senior Research Officer Dr Robin Jacob is leading SIBI’s involvement in this project. Robin said “With the WA flock being predominantly merino, there is an interest within industry to improve the value of meat from older animals and dry ageing is potentially a way of doing this.

“Together with MLA we are looking into what market demand there is for this product, and we’ll also look at what regulations and guidelines will govern it, economics and profitability, and of course eating quality and how it compares with wet aged meat on the consumer’s palate.”

Preliminary findings: beef industry

A study being conducted by the University of Melbourne has just begun and to date has concentrated on the pathway that led to the beef trend for dry ageing. This trend is now worldwide and the study suggests a similar path could be followed for sheep meat.

The beef trend started in restaurants and has evolved to dry aged beef becoming available in speciality shops and butchers.  This occurred first in Germany in the mid 2000’s and subsequently moved to the USA, then to Asia and now the Middle East.  In the US, the market for dry aged beef was valued at $10 billion in 2015, equivalent to about 10% of the total beef market. The price is about twice that of wet aged meat but can be valued at the same level as Wagyu (4-6 times) when extended ageing periods (>50 days) are used.

Figure 2 The worldwide interest in dry aged beef (source Google trends)

Robin added “If we use beef as an example, consumption is forecasted to stagnate globally – but the demand for dry aged beef will likely increase due to an increase in demand for protein-rich food products and consumer trends towards higher quality food.”

“Consumers for dry aged meats are looking for an authentic, unique premium eating experience.

“So far, dry ageing seems to be a real opportunity for sheepmeat but more information will become available as the project progresses.”

For more information on this project, contact Robin at

Ad-floc: upcoming events and activities for SIBI


Financial webinars

A new series of five interactive webinars focusing on financial proficiency in sheep and mixed enterprises will be available as a pilot program in March and April 2018.

By the end of five webinars you will understand how basic financial information informs essential business decisions. The webinar content includes strategies and tools for monitoring and evaluating your business's financial position, providing a financial health check.

Participants can enjoy learning and participating in this programme while in the comfort of their own home. Each weekly webinar will be one hour, and you will be supported throughout the programme by a wonderful facilitator, Doug Watson.

To be eligible to participate in the free webinar series you will need to be a primary producer with an ABN earning over $50 000 per year. 

To register your interest please contact Kylie Cutten at

Sheep producer telephone survey

A telephone survey of sheep producers will be conducted in March and April.

DPIRD, through the SIBI project, has been working with WA sheep producers, processors, exporters and service providers since October 2015 to address issues and create opportunities for a progressive and thriving sheep industry.

The survey is being conducted by an independent market research company to understand how effective DPIRD’s work has been in this space and to guide future research and development programs.

Producers will be selected randomly and contacted by post or email to participate.

It follows previous producer surveys conducted on behalf of key national and state level projects in 2004 and 2008 for Lifetimewool, and 2011 and 2014 as part of the MoreSheep and SIBI projects in collaboration with the Sheep CRC.

Katanning Research Facility open day – ‘Farmer wants a life’

To be held on Thursday 22 March at the department’s Katanning Research Facility, on Nyabing Road, ‘Farmer wants a life’ is about maximising the work/life balance by getting the most out of your sheep enterprise through using the latest technology, emerging research and management techniques for sheep.

For more information about the event including speakers and registration, please refer to the full article in this newsletter.

DataSmart workshops

Our DataSmart one-day workshops for stud sheep breeders, to be delivered by Debbie Milne of Richmond Hill Agribusiness, will focus on the Pedigree Master data management software package. The workshops will also help you understand ASBVs and improve your data quality.

These DataSmart workshops are being held in Katanning on 27 February and 1 March, at a cost of $200 (+GST) per business.

RSVPs for the DataSmart workshops are essential to Ros Campbell.

Meet the team: Senior Development Officer Justin Hardy

Each edition, we will introduce you to a different member of our SIBI team.


Justin spent the first thirteen years of his life on a farm in Kenya, which cemented a lifelong love for the environment. A degree in Agricultural and Environmental Science at University of Newcastle upon Tyne was a natural choice, with Justin saying: “the concept of land stewardship resonates strongly with me, and we are just custodians aiming to leave the land in a better condition to future generations.”

Justin has worked as a regional land conservation adviser on the south coast, the outcome of which was the formation South Coast NRM Inc. In time, he led the WA chapter of the five year national Sustainable Grazing on Saline Lands (SGSL) grower network program.

Justin said “It was an exciting initiative that involved over 50 grower trial sites from Jerdercuttup in the south, Mukinbudin in the east and to Mingenew in the north, underpinned by a research and development program which investigated productivity as well as environmental outcomes.”

More recently Justin has held a number of more direct roles in the WA sheep industry, including the inaugural executive officer for the Sheep Industry Leadership Council (now the WA Sheep Alliance), and the More Sheep Initiative which contributed towards the inception of the SIBI program. Justin is currently enrolled part time in a PhD with the University of WA, looking at sheep production from the novel perennial pasture legume called tedera.

“My current role with the SIBI project is managing the Centre for Operations, Research and Infrastructure, as well as leading a number of other activities including servicing the Noongar Land Enterprises group with property owners transitioning into a sheep enterprise, supporting sheep industry placements, capacity building and leadership for young professionals and the sheep industry university scholarships program” Justin said.

Outside work, Justin is passionate about community, and leads a river restoration community group as well as volunteering as a training officer and a lieutenant in the local volunteer fire brigade. He enjoys keeping fit and participating in outdoor events such as the annual Blackwood marathon and Rottnest channel swim.

To contact Justin, email

Justin (in hat) with his mother and two brothers climbing Mount Longonot in the rift valley, Kenya, about 1972