Book launched at final Sheep CRC event

Book launched at final Sheep CRC event


THE work of The Co-operative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation was celebrated last week at Murdoch University,

THE work of The Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) was celebrated last week at Murdoch University as the book which details its work over the past 20 years - Concept to Impact - was launched by Sheep CRC chief executive officer professor James Rowe.


Last week's event was the final meeting of the Sheep CRC which had three terms over an 18-year period and ceased operations in June 2019.

The Co-operative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) chief executive officer professor James Rowe speaking at the Concept to Impact book launch last week.

The Co-operative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) chief executive officer professor James Rowe speaking at the Concept to Impact book launch last week.

Professor Rowe said during that time the support of the WA sheep industry, including researchers, academics and processors was "huge" and deserved to be recognised and praised for their efforts which had helped the CRC contribute more than $300 million to the economy each year of its existence.

"It is a very important opportunity to thank Murdoch University for the huge support you have provided right throughout this CRC, as well as the Western Australian Department of Agriculture (now the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development) and the incredible work that's been done, especially the resource flock, the information nucleus at Katanning, it has been an absolutely huge effort and also the work that you did on wool comfort was unbelievable," professor Rowe said.

"CRC's don't just get funded because we have good ideas that are developed by academics, you really need the strong industry support and a lot of it has come from WA.

"Without Fletchers International Exports, WAMMCO and Hillside Meats we would not have got the CRC."

Professor Rowe also praised the efforts of individuals such as Dawson Bradford, Peter Treford and Bob Hall, as well as Merinotech WA as "critical" to ensure that WA has "stayed in the limelight".

"The contribution of CSIRO and The University of WA has been quite specific but always very valuable," he said.

"And in the end if Meat and Livestock Australia didn't fund us we would not have preceded beyond 2007."

Professor Rowe said writing the book had been a good opportunity to review the overall impact that the Sheep CRC had made.

"This book is effectively one that has got two parts - firstly what has been achieved and secondly about the CRC model," he said.

"During the past 18 years the real gross value of the sheep industry has increased from about $50 per head in real terms to more than $120 per head.

"It has increased as an industry worth $5.5 billion a year to $8.6b a year and we have done this with fewer sheep - with 40pc less sheep we have produced 50pc more value.

"Lambing rates have gone up - increased by 20pc.

"The average carcase weight has increased from 19 kilograms to 23kg.

"The price of lamb has effectively doubled as we continue to improve the eating quality.

"Labour efficiency has been dramatically changed through the use of automatic tags and automated sheep handling systems.

"Digital and web based apps have made it easier to make smarter decisions in complex situations and genomics, based on DNA analysis, are contributing to much faster genetic gains.

"So the final chapter in the book is a really good place to look for those headline figures on how we have improved productivity."

Professor Rowe said the CRC model worked well because of collaboration, it's priorities "set in conjunction with industry", with post graduates working on industry problems and good governance.

"You just have to have a skills based board keeping that focus and keeping the team going, it's a format that really works," he said.

The book launch was conducted by David Pethick, who played an integral part of the work undertaken by the Sheep CRC and speeches were also given by Murdoch University deputy vice chancellor of research David Morrison and associate professor Graham Gardner.

Professor Morrison said Australia had a history of "living off the sheep's back" but the industry had been through a lot with sheep earning 40pc of the income for Australia in the 1950s before going through the "doldrums" in the 1980s.

"The Sheep CRC was designed to turn the industry around," professor Morrison said.

"Sheep CRC has added about $317-$320m a year to the national economy in the past 18 years and Murdoch has been proud to be a partner."

He said the CRC had "always kept its focus on the consumer" which had been part of its success.

Professor Morrison said through the work of the Sheep CRC "Australia was now seen as the leading, if not one of the leading, sheep research countries in the world".

"People will pick up what research you have done and the techniques you have developed," he said.

"The CRC has helped to create a culture of innovation and openness to change and this will be vital as issues like food security, environmental welfare and changes in consumer preferences increasingly come to the fore."


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