A young researcher is about to embark on an international educational journey to improve Merino sheep breeding.
Department of Agriculture and Food researcher Gus Rose leaves for the Netherlands next week to commence a four year PhD at Wageningen University, a world leader in genetics research.
Mr Rose will identify the value of easy care and robustness or fitness traits in Merino sheep, as part of research funded by the department and the Sheep Cooperative Research Centre (CRC).
In recent years there has been an increased focus on these types of traits, such as wrinkles, which can be used to avoid the need to mules sheep to reduce the risk of flystrike.
Mr Rose said he was keen to explore two key questions in his PhD.
“One is to see what impact selection for robustness and easy care traits have on the profitability of sheep systems, the other is to see how the relative profitability from these traits compares with production traits, like clean fleece weight,” he said.
“By gaining a better understanding of which traits are important in different environments, then sheep producers will be able to breed sheep that are suited to local environmental conditions and are more profitable.
“An animal that is better adapted to its environment will require less costs and labour for pest and disease management and supplementary feeding, which will mean more dollars per hectare.
“In four years time, I hope we will have a better breeding index that uses Australian Sheep Breeding Values to use for high and low rainfall areas that will help to breed sheep that are easier to run with less labour.”
Mr Rose will spend most of his study year in the Netherlands and return to Australia periodically to apply his research.
“The Department of Agriculture and Food has been very supportive of my study and I am looking forward to the next four years,” he said.