Beef and Lamb New Zealand wants to combine its genetics
investments into one entity so it can use science to help
farmers cope with new challenges such as growing productive
animals on hill country. Photo by Ruth Grundy.
Sheep and beef farmers will have their say next month on
what their investment in genetic science should be for the next
five years - setting the industry's national breeding
objectives for potentially the next 20 years.
Industry-good organisation Beef and Lamb New Zealand is
holding a series of meetings this month to get levy-payers'
support, before a referendum it will hold next month on its
proposal to combine its genetic research and development
services into one entity.
It wants to combine Sheep Improvement Limited (SIL), its
Central Progeny Test (CPT) and Ovita into Beef and Lamb New
Zealand Genetics, with support from the Government.
It promises to make an additional investment in beef genetics
to support systems used by New Zealand bull breeders.
Beef and Lamb Genetics manager Mark Young said it wanted to
set the direction for its breeding industry for the next 20
years. There were several key considerations behind its
proposal and the meetings were to ''begin the debate'' of
''where we should be going'', Dr Young said.
One challenge already identified by farmers was that
competition for land was pushing sheep and beef finishing
into harder country, so there was a need to look at breeding
objectives and to determine which genetics suited which
environments, he said.
''Some traits which we have been selecting for, for beef and
lamb improvement, are near their optimum now - like fatness
There were other beneficial traits which could be brought
into breeding programmes, such as animal longevity, eating
qualities and storage life, which would increase
profitability, he said.
And there was potential to exploit the new opportunities the
rapidly changing DNA technology offered.
Another outcome sought by Beef and Lamb was to make it easier
for farmers to use the genetic information produced.
''We need to put a stronger focus on farm profit. Instead of
profit per animal, we need to look at profit per hectare.''
Dr Young said Beef and Lamb wanted to build on its
collaboration with breed societies, many of which had
genetics programmes which had identified which environments
their stock best suited.
It wanted to ''characterise that'' and ''detail the
specifications'' rather have them attributed only to a
''brand'', he said.
The new entity would ''exploit existing data'' and look at
what new traits needed to be identified, Dr Young said.
Breeders spoken to by Courier Country were positive about the
change. Angus NZ president and North Island Angus breeder Tim
Brittain said he was encouraged by what Beef and Lamb was
doing and Angus NZ would ''work with them''.
ANGUS breeders had been successfully selecting genetics to
get the best production from different environments since the
early 1990s, when they became involved in BreedPlan, he said.
Breedplan - an Australian-based genetic evaluation system -
is used almost universally by New Zealand beef bull breeders.
Breeders strived to give their commercial customers what they
wanted and they, in turn, wanted to give consumers what they
sought, he said.
Beef and Lamb appeared to be showing more of an interest in
prime beef production than it had in the past and this was
long overdue, Mr Brittain said.
South Canterbury Southdown breeder Chris Medlicott said it
was a positive move but he hoped there would be more to the
programme than merely collecting and standardising data.
The information had to be easily understood, so it could be
applied appropriately and to the benefit of the commercial
customers - whose needs could vary considerably, he said.
Proven high growth rates in sheep in one environment might
only result in average growth in another, he saidFarmers had
to have the skills to interpret the science and results could
not necessarily be duplicated across flocks, he said.
''Sometimes, you just have to be a stockman and stand back
and see what suits you,'' Mr Medlicott said. Ram breeders
often had the experience, outside of science, to know what
best suited their customers, whose trust they had earned, Mr
North Otago Perendale breeder David Ruddenklau, who is the
former National Perendale Progeny trial chairman, said Beef
and Lamb's move made a ''whole lot of sense''.
''I can only see good coming from it.''
New Zealand farmers could pride themselves on being world
leaders in the production of beef and lamb, achieved through
genetic development, he said.
Beef and Lamb's CPT's science was world-leading and farmers
had access to the world's best animal scientists in Ovita, Mr
The three entities already collaborated, so it made sense to
combine to reduce overheads, he said.
As a Perendale breeder he could see ''some really exciting
things'' resulting from the CPT trials in the next five
The hill country trials were already under way. There are
three South Island meetings to discuss the proposal.
The first was in Fairlie on Monday, and further meetings are
being held today, in Gore, and on October 29, in North
BEEF AND LAMB GENETICS
Beef and Lamb Genetics will be an industry partnership
between Beef and Lamb and the Ministry of Business,
Innovation and Employment (MBIE) with contributions from
AgResearch (which will play a major role), AbacusBio and some
universities. It will combine:
1. Central Progeny Test (CPT) - which collects genetic
data from using rams from different flocks over the same ewes
on the same farm. The different progeny then are compared
under the same management and environment.
2. Sheep Improvement Ltd (SIL) - which ranks a
breeder's rams, ewes and progeny as to the highest genetic
merit across a range of traits.
3. Ovita - which is a partnership between Beef and
Lamb, AgResearch and the Government, researches and develops
sheep genetic selection tools, using DNA-based technology.
The Beef and Lamb levy-payer vote is required because
combining these programmes into one entity creates a
''significant transaction'' under the Companies Act.
• Beef and Lamb Genetics will be funded by Beef and Lamb
farmer levies, industry investors and Government matched
funding through MBIE.
• Beef and Lamb plans to maintain its level of investment in
genetics, which is $2.9 million annually, through SIL, CPT
• It expects to receive third party investment of about $1.5
million and Government funding to boost that investment to
$8.8 million annually.
• The potential five-year investment of $44 million is
predicted to generate $742 million of additional genetic
value to farmers.
• Funding is subject to approval by MBIE and support from
farmers voting in the levy-payer referendum.