Kudos for researcher

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Bob GarnantCountryman
Murdoch University Associate Professor of Animal Science Dr Andrew Thompson, recently won an award for research in the livestock industry
Camera IconMurdoch University Associate Professor of Animal Science Dr Andrew Thompson, recently won an award for research in the livestock industry Credit: Daniel Wilkins

Murdoch University’s Andrew Thompson has been recognised for his contribution to the southern Australian red meat and livestock industries at an online presentation.

The Southern Australia Livestock Research Council awards were developed to recognise, reward and celebrate excellence and the contributions of individuals to research, development, extension and communication.

The awards celebrate the practical application of innovation on farm, to improve the profitability, productivity and sustainability of the Southern Australian red meat and livestock industries.

On receiving his award, Dr Thompson said it was great to be recognised by the industry across the country.

“My work with the research group at Murdoch is about impacting the sheep industry across Australia in a positive way,” he said.

“Collaboration has always been a key to success.”

Dr Thompson said eight of 10 projects currently led by Murdoch University involved other scientists and consultants in SALRC regions.

“Current recent projects have involved more than 200 sites on commercial farms throughout Australia,” he said.

“Successful collaboration is so rewarding, especially working directly with farmers.”

Dr Thompson has made significant advancements in on-farm sheep productivity, particularly in improving reproduction and lamb survival.

Early in his career Dr Thompson introduced the concept of feed on offer. This focused on managing sheep nutrition to manipulate fineness of wool-fibre diameter and improve its staple strength. This nutritional work has been used in advice and management of sheep across Australia.

Dr Thompson led the National Lifetime Wool Project and co-developed the Lifetime Ewe Management training program.

Since 2006, LTEM has had more than 4000 sheep producer participants, managing more than 12 million ewes, or 30 per cent of the national flock.

These participants have increased their stocking rate by nearly 10 per cent, improved the number of lambs weaned per ewe by 7 per cent and reduced ewe mortality.

LTEM has so far delivered about $300 million back to growers.

Dr Thompson’s other research has been groundbreaking.

This includes reproduction in ewe lambs, developing “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.

Dr Thompson leads a number of projects being developed and managed by early and mid-career scientists at Murdoch University.

These include understanding the magnitude and causes of foetal losses in young ewes, supplementation with vitamins and minerals to improve lamb survival and understanding the effects of different methods of providing supplementary feed on ewe behaviour.

Another key project puts the focus on lamb survival and reducing mortality of triplet-bearing ewes and their lambs.

“The research is whole-farm economic modelling,” he said.

“The research outcomes will have a major impact on farming systems.”

The SALRC 2020 award recipients also included Gippsland livestock producer Jenny O’Sullivan (producer award), NSW livestock development officer Geoff Casburn (communications and extension award) and NSW department research scientist Benjamin Holman (young achiever award).

SALRC chair Ian Rogan said that innovation and excellence should be recognised and rewarded in the 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,” he 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 is an independent, incorporated association and one of three national research Councils setup to provide recommendations on Research, Development & Adoption priorities and planning for grass-fed beef and sheepmeat producers throughout Australia.

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