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Beyond the Bale : December 2011
24 24 selling more wool September 2010 Beyond the Bale how to boost ewe productivity by utilising real-time measurable data, rather than observations, will be a major focus for the studies of James Walker, who has been awarded a Nuffield Scholarship sponsored by AWI. James farms 15,000 Merinos on a mixed enterprise rangeland pastoral property near Longreach in central Queensland with his brother. With the size of the national flock starting to slowly recover, James believes the rebuilding of flocks could be sped up by farmers using real-time measurable data management to improve conception rates. James says his studies will investigate if the multiple reproductive cycle trait of ewes can be capitalised to speed up the lamb-to-lamb interval with remote weight and health management. “ I believe accountability comes through measurable data, and if we can relate that to profit in an actual manner we can really deliver greater profitability in sheep,” James says. “ It ’s all about factual decision making based on actual real-time events, and intervening if there is a change in the health or weight of the ewe. Making these decisions could be helped by utilising technology. “ There may be potential to leverage the gestation period and polyestrous trait of sheep. Instead of using an annual cycle there may be potential, and I would love to explore it, to leverage this polyestrous trait and maintain better quality in the ewes’ performance and health – which may result in better consistency of the wool follicle.” Essentially James will be looking to build on the existing principles in ewe nutrition and management from the Lifetime Ewe Management and Making More from Sheep programs and seeing how individual sheep management might improve on this knowledge. While Australia is leading the field in regards to this technology, there has been limited uptake at a commercial level. However, there is some interesting research happening in the United States which is closely linked with James’s research program. Part of his study tour will include visiting the Cornell University sheep program in the United States. The program has developed the Cornell STAR system of sheep reproduction which focuses on five joinings in three years. It will be a busy twelve months ahead for James, which includes a world study tour to investigate his study area. During a six week period, the scholar will be attending almost 100 meetings. His trip will start in Canberra in February before he goes to the Netherlands and London to attend the International Scholars conference. Then in June and July the global focus tour will begin and he will travel to the Philippines, China, Canada, the United States, France and Ireland. ”W hile it will be challenging, Nuffield has been giving us tools along the way to help address the obstacles we are faced with,” James says. “ It is a tremendous honour and privilege to receive this award and I want to fulfil all the objectives the project is setting out to achieve and give something back to the industry.” Nuffield Farming Scholarships are awarded annually by Nuffield Australia. The awards, which are presented to farmers, aim to increase practical farming knowledge and management skills and techniques generally. It is expected that Nuffield Scholars will actively spread the knowledge and understanding they have gained to their fellow farmers and others. More information: www.wool.com www.nuffield.com.au http://waltzingjumbuck.blogspot.com Fast Facts l James Walker from Longreach, Queensland, has been awarded a 2012 Nuffield Scholarship sponsored by AWI. l According to James, more intensive management technology could be key to improving ewe conception rates. l A study tour will see him investigate intensive breeding and management technology systems throughout the world. AWI 2012 Nuffield Scholar 2012 nuffield scholar James Walker from Longreach with daughters sophia and cloe. “I belIeve accountabIlIty comes through measurable data, and If we can relate that to profIt In an actual manner we can really delIver greater profItabIlIty In sheep” James walker December 2011 Beyond the Bale 24 on-Farm