FAQs on the sheep industry in Western Australia

Page last updated: Tuesday, 13 June 2017 - 11:31am

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Frequently asked questions, including the Sheep Industry Business Innovation (SIBI) project, benefits of increasing sheep numbers, and business innovation.


The Sheep Industry Business Innovation (SIBI) project 

What is SIBI and what is the project priority?

  • The SIBI project is a Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia (DAFWA) initiative to support the sheep industry by capitalising on growing markets for sheep products.
  • SIBI is supported by the state government’s Royalties for Regions program.
  • The main priority of the SIBI project is to create a more profitable and resilient sheep industry tuned to customer needs and greater value.
  • This priority is being achieved through the establishment of dedicated export supply chains, increasing on-farm productivity, improving farm business skills, attracting investment and establishing resources for research and adoption.

Is DAFWA still involved in sheep research?

Ongoing research is vital and sheep research in the department is focused on increasing the efficiency and profitability of the sheep industry. The SIBI project is focused on transformation of the sheep industry so it can better meet the needs of markets and businesses, and traditional on-farm research is not part of the outcomes funded by Royalties for Regions. However, there are some key programs that contribute directly to the SIBI outcomes:

  • The Katanning Research Facility is home to the genetic resource flock. As part of a larger Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) program, the flock is used for research into the development of Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) for a variety of hard-to-measure traits. The traits include carcase traits, breech-strike resistance and lamb survival. The breeding values allow producers to make targeted genetic gains, improve sheep welfare, increase lamb survival and breed meat sheep to market specifications. An economic analysis of the benefit of the genetic resource flock to the Western Australian (WA) sheep industry is being completed to demonstrate the value of the program.
  • New technologies to increase precision management and measurement, e.g. ‘fitbit’® sensors to monitor sheep movement and determine parentage. This involves using smart tags (ActiGraph® sensors) to enable lambs to be matched to their ewe mother (this project is in conjunction with Australian Wool Innovation, La Trobe University and Murdoch University) and to determine other uses for ‘smart tags’ that improve efficiency and productivity,  including opportunities in feedlots and grazing management.
  • Development of new meat products, such as dry-aged mutton from low-value carcases. Engagement with local producers is developing dry-aged mutton products. Dry ageing is a well-established technique used on beef that improves tenderness and flavour. However, the process also reduces the weight of saleable meat. The research project will aim to refine the technique for mutton and to understand the financial parameters associated with dry-ageing mutton.

What is a value chain and why do we need them?

Much of SIBI’s work is based around the concept of value chains rather than supply chains. But how are they different and why do we focus on value chains?

  • A supply chain is the physical process of getting a product from the inputs via production through to the end consumer. The service providers along the chain may or may not be consistent and have no investment in achieving a defined outcome for the product. It is usually a transactional arrangement, often developed in relation to cost and convenience.
  • A value chain is based on a supply chain. All of the value chain partners invest in ensuring the products are within specification and meet the consumer’s expectations. In a value chain the operation shifts from a transactional level of business to a strategic engagement, where the value chain partners identify and respond to market needs. The value that is created is then apportioned by agreement of the value chain partners, where each of the partners knows the cost of production and the margin that each partner contributes to the end product. This level of transparency is a challenge for many businesses operating in the more traditional fashion. However this transparency is necessary in order to build a resilient and efficient outcome that constantly achieves more profit (or goals that the partners seek) than a supply chain model.
  • A value chain is focused on delivering what a customer demands, which is the key to sustainability in any industry. It relies on shared mutual benefit for all value chain partners and their ability to harness the combined efforts to achieve goals that would not be achievable via a supply chain approach. These goals may be reduced risk, increased price, increased volumes, improved product consistency, long-term market relationships, greater efficiencies or many other factors. Many sophisticated markets are demanding the coordination and reliability of a functioning value chain to enhance their confidence in their suppliers.

How are indigenous landowners involved in the SIBI project?

  • DAFWA acknowledges the importance of developing partnerships with indigenous landowners. The SIBI project is committed to increasing the participation of indigenous landowners in the WA sheepmeat value chain through the provision of technical and business training opportunities.
  • SIBI has developed a partnership with the Southern Agricultural Indigenous Landholder Service (SAILS) team to promote trust and collaboration with indigenous landowners and build capacity. An engagement plan is available in the documents section on the SIBI website.
  • In order to build capacity, training programs such as the Lifetime Ewe Management course are being tailored to increase skills on indigenous properties.

How will the impact of the SIBI project on the sheep industry be measured?

  • A key activity is to evaluate the success and impact of the SIBI program on the sheep industry throughout the duration of the project. The desired outcome is to grow the WA sheep industry through transformational innovation in market development, value chains and production systems.
  • A full impact evaluation plan is available here. The plan, which is regularly updated, includes the expected outcomes and impact of each activity and the ways in which adoption will be measured within the industry. A final evaluation report will be available at the completion of the project in 2018.


Contact information

Mandy Curnow
+61 (0)8 9892 8422

FAQs on the sheep industry in Western Australia

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