MURDOCH University professor Andrew Thompson has been recognised for his contributions to the sheep industry at the 2020 Southern Australia Livestock Research Council (SALRC) Awards by receiving the 2020 Scientist/ Researcher Award.
The SALRC awards recognise innovation and excellence in Australian livestock industries, rewarding individuals who have helped to improve profitability, productivity and sustainability in their field.
For more than 30 years Dr Thompson has focussed on developing research outcomes to help solve some of the most important issues facing farmers and throughout his career he has been instrumental in achieving significant advancements in on-farm sheep productivity, especially in improving reproduction and lamb survival.
In announcing the award last month, SALRC chairman Ian Rogan said "innovation and excellence should be recognised and rewarded in our livestock industries".
"The successful future of our sheep and beef industries depends on the research, development and commercial adoption of best practice and new knowledge and products," Mr Rogan said.
"Whether it be in better pastures, improved genetics and management of our stock, meeting market expectations in environmental impacts, animal welfare and product quality-there are opportunities for ongoing improvements in all these areas.
"SALRC aims to support and recognise those at the researcher, adviser and producer levels that are taking the lead in progressing these aspects of our industries."
Dr Thompson said it was great to be recognised by the sheep industry, especially from the other side of the country.
"I have been fortunate to work with great teams of people at the former PVI in Hamilton, in south west Victoria and now Murdoch in WA, a team that is passionate about impacting the sheep industry across Australia in a positive way," Dr Thompson said.
He said that "collaboration has always been a key to success and few if any research groups involved in on-farm R&D collaborate like we do - eight of 10 projects led by our group at Murdoch involve other scientists and consultants in SALRC regions and current and recent projects have involved over 200 sites on commercial farms throughout Australia".
"Successful collaboration is so rewarding especially working directly with farmers," Dr Thompson said.
In his early career his research helped introduce the concept of feed on offer to farmers.
This also focused on managing sheep nutrition to manipulate the fibre diameter or fineness of wool and improve its strength.
These concepts have now been embedded in everyday advice and management of sheep across Australia.
One of Dr Thompson's most notable achievements was leading the National Lifetime wool project and subsequent co-development of the Lifetime Ewe Management (LTEM) training program.
Since 2006, LTEM has been delivered to more than 4000 sheep producers, managing more than 12 million ewes (30 per cent of the national flock).
Murdoch University said evaluation data showed that the participants in LTEM increased their stocking rate by nearly 10pc, improved the number of lambs weaned per ewe by 7pc and reduced ewe mortality.
It was recently estimated that the gains in lamb production alone due to participation in LTEM have so far delivered about $300 million back to growers.
Dr Thompson's other research interests include reproduction in ewe lambs, developing more easy-care sheep that require less labour, understanding the roles of feed intake and whole-body energy reserves on potential stocking rates and developing sensor technologies to monitor sheep behaviours, welfare and production in real-time.
Murdoch University projects being developed and managed by early and mid-career scientists in Dr Thompson's research group include understanding the magnitude and causes of foetal losses in young ewes, supplementation with vitamins and minerals to improve lamb survival, understanding the effects of different methods of providing supplementary feed on ewe behaviour and lamb survival and reducing mortality of triplet bearing ewes and their lambs.
Underpinning a large portion of the research conducted by the research group is whole-farm economic modelling.
This process increases the likelihood that the research outcomes will have a major impact on farming systems.