Sheep meat course helps woolgrowers boost income

Published 02 June 2008

lamb.jpgThe University of New England is meeting a growing need in the sheep industry throughout Australia and New Zealand for a course on the production and marketing of sheep meat.

UNE introduced the course – “Sheep Meat Production and Marketing” – in 2006, making it available to students enrolled in rural science degree programs at other universities as well as at UNE.

Fifteen students from several Australian States (including four from Western Australia) and from New Zealand are currently enrolled in the one-semester course. They recently attended a three-day residential school at UNE, during which they visited the properties of leading local sheep breeders, and the sheep meat processing facility at Tamworth. They also participated in a seminar at which the Manager of Sheep Genetics Australia, Mr Richard Apps, spoke about the application of Australian Sheep Breeding Values.

“The importance of meat to the sheep industry is increasing,” said UNE’s Dr John Goopy, the compiler and coordinator of the course. “Most sheep properties are now classed as ‘dual enterprises’, with 80 per cent of them getting at least 20 per cent of their income from meat.”

Dr Goopy said that two important aspects of sheep meat production in the 21st century were sheep genetics and the objective measurement of carcass and meat characteristics. He said the UNE course covered both of these, as well as sheep health and nutrition, farm management, and marketing. “It emphasises the strong connection between management and marketing,” he said.

The students examine trends in consumer demand – such as the growing demand for meat with high levels of fatty acids and iron, and low levels of saturated fat – and the science involved in meeting those demands.

The course is sponsored by UNE, the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation, Australian Wool Innovation Ltd, Meat and Livestock Australia, and the Australian Wool Education Trust.

One of the students at the residential school – Andrew Glover – is in the fourth year of his Bachelor of Livestock Science degree program at UNE. Andrew, who comes from a fine wool property near Cootamundra, said he was exploring the possibility of diversifying into fat lamb production. “You have to make income through several different channels now,” he said.

Another student – Kate Munro – is studying for a Bachelor of Science (Animal Production) degree at Charles Sturt University. Kate, who breeds sheep on a family property near Jerilderie, said she was doing the course to “broaden her horizons”. She said the residential school had enabled her to meet – and learn from – industry leaders. Both Andrew Glover and Kate Munro have ambitions to use their knowledge as industry consultants.

Andrew Jopp, from Queenstown in New Zealand, is studying at UNE towards a Master of Agriculture (Wool Science) degree. He said he had enrolled in the sheep meat course to find out what was happening in the field in Australia. He was particularly enthusiastic about the course’s focus on the genetic basis of sheep meat production. “We don’t have much of that in New Zealand,” he said.

Dr Goopy said that many of the students were from sheep properties, and that their participation in the course was symptomatic of the growing importance of meat production as an integral component of the sheep industry.

For more information on the course, contact Dr Goopy on (02) 6773 1995 (e-mail jgoopy2@une.edu.au).