George Davis, who spent decades working at Invermay, has been
acknowledged by the sheep industry for his contribution to
sheep industry science.
Now retired, Dr Davis received the Silver Fern Farms sheep
industry science award at the second annual Beef and Lamb New
Zealand sheep industry awards in Invercargill last week.
It was both a very nice occasion and a nice surprise to
receive the award and it was also special to be recognised by
the industry, Dr Davis said.
The award acknowledged his contribution to New Zealand's
significant international profile in sheep genomics research.
He was a pioneer in the field of new technologies that saw
animals selected using laboratory-based genetic diagnosis.
He discovered the Inverdale X-linked fecundity gene and made
a major contribution to the breeding, international supply
and pioneering research on the Booroola fecundity gene.
All the work that was recognised in the award would have been
''impossible'' if he had not been at Invermay, Dr Davis said.
AgResearch is now controversially proposing to centralise its
operations on Lincoln and Palmerston North, while cutting
staff at Invermay and Ruakura.
Originally from a mixed farm at Maheno in North Otago, Dr
Davis had his first connection with Invermay in 1970.
He spent several months there preparing him for three
and-a-half years at the Tara Hills research station near
He worked at Invermay from the end of 1973 through to 2010
with a two and-a-half year break in South Korea, from 1976 to
1978, establishing a beef cattle development farm.
His return from South Korea coincided with the appointment of
Dr Jock Allison as director of Invermay, and he ''inherited''
his Booroola project. That got him started on sheep research,
which dominated the remainder of his career. He also led an
The major highlights of his career were finding the Inverdale
and Woodlands genes and there were ''lots of nice moments
along the way''.
He worked alongside some very good colleagues and there was
also an opportunity to work with some very progressive
farmers who were ''very stimulating'' to work with.
That enabled the Invermay team to do things they could not do
in the confines of the research station, he said.
The involvement with farmers was something that he really
A lot of his work was done on farms in Otago-Southland and it
was nice to be able to catch up with some of those farmers at
Dr Davis and his wife Ruth live at North Taieri, where he
enjoyed his 4ha lifestyle block and running a few sheep.
''Surprise, surprise, there's the odd Inverdale gene amongst
them,' he said, laughing.
More than 300 people attended the sheep industry awards and
Beef and Lamb chairman Mike Petersen said it was great to see
the sector embrace the awards ''so enthusiastically''.
''Last year's awards were the result of a great idea from
within the Southern South Island Farmer Council.
''We thought it was important to carry on celebrating the
outstanding progress by breeders and commercial farmers in
pursuit of sector excellence in the sheep industry,'' Mr
The AgITO sheep industry trainer of the year was won by Kevin
Smith, from Middlemarch, who manages three properties for
corporate farmer Greenfield Rural.
He has employed a steady stream of graduates from Telford,
Lincoln University and AgITO programmes and trained more than
30 young people as shepherds.
Southern-based Alliance Group won the Beef and Lamb New
Zealand sheep industry innovation award with its ''long
history of building on incremental innovations at every level
of the value chain''.
The company initiated the Central Progeny Test 11 years ago,
which now supports across-breed comparison SIL-ACE.
It introduced Market Choice in 2002- an industry-first
carcass quality-based payment system - and the associated 2-D
imaging system VIAScan. More recently, it co-developed
Hoofprint, an environmental and farm performance benchmarking
The Blackdale sheep industry supplier of the year was won by
Hugh and Judy Akers, from Broadlands Station, near Ashhurst,
Manawatu, who supply ANZCO.
The station was the inaugural national winner of the Waitrose
supplier of the year award and has twice featured in the top
five suppliers for the North Island during the past seven
The Allflex award for an individual or business making a
significant contribution to the New Zealand sheep industry
was awarded to New Zealand Animal Breeding Trust general
manager Clare Callow.
The Alliance Group gold award for terminal sire overall went
to George and Kathryn Smith, of the Tamlet Texel stud, near
Wyndham, while the Telford - a division of Lincoln University
- dual-purpose overall award went to Edward Dinger and his
Cambridge-based MNCC Coopworth stud.