How? By developing more commercially-focused breeding objectives, more accurate genetic evaluations and better match genetic measures to commercial farmers’ needs.
B+LNZ Genetics was established in 2014 to consolidate New Zealand’s sheep and beef genetics research and innovation into a single entity. We are a subsidiary of the farmer-owned industry organisation, Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) and are funded by sheep and beef levy payers and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. We are supported by additional investment from third parties, including meat processors, breed societies and commercial entities interested in sheep and beef genetics and genomics.
B+LNZ Genetics is building on already significant genetic gains in New Zealand farming.
Graham’s focus is on the commercial farmer and ensuring B+LNZ Genetics provides the information and tools farmers need to increase their profits via genetics. While that sounds simple, we have about 20 research projects underway each falling under one of the four genetic cornerstones and collectively contributing to the bigger picture of using genetics to lift profit.
“The science of genetics may be complex, but fortunately the principles are relatively straightforward. The key is for these principles to reach commercial farmers via a group they trust as much as anyone – their stud breeders. Breeders have responded extremely well to B+LNZ Genetics’ initiatives to make genetic potential more visible – and much depends on their ongoing support for further gains.”
IT Programme Manager
In his role, David provides project management overview and supports collaboration in our IT projects. He also contributes to B+LNZ Genetics' technology strategy, both within the sector and internally. David has worked in the IT industry for more than 20 years, successfully developing software and managing teams across a range of industries. He recently managed the development and maintenance a large global genetic evaluation system - including team management, partner collaboration, requirements gathering, architecture, change control and implementation.
“The rapidly developing genetics landscape presents many opportunities and challenges. Selecting the right technologies and people to work together effectively is critical for B+LNZ Genetics to deliver the right tools and technology to continually advance genetic gain in New Zealand.”
As Lead Scientist, Michael has oversight of B+LNZ Genetics’ science projects and he is also involved in developing the genetic evaluation infrastructure for sheep. Michael has a PhD in Genetics and also studied economics. He worked in Sweden earlier in his career – in plant breeding and with a start-up biotech – before moving to the UK and transitioning into health economics. Michael has worked at AgResearch and Pfizer (now Zoetis). Alongside his B+LNZ Genetics role, he is also part-time at University of Otago. Michael’s own particular field of research is in sheep maternal traits and genotype-by-environment.
Technology and Extension Manager
Sharl’s role is to develop genetic improvement technologies for breeders. He is also responsible for engaging commercial farmers in seeking out the best genetics for their situation. Sharl has an agricultural science degree and came to B+LNZ Genetics in 2016, after 10 years with Zoetis. He has also worked for AbacusBio. Over his career, Sharl has been closely involved with sheep and beef breeding programmes across the country.
“B+LNZ Genetics occupies a privileged position, being central to other industry participants who also want to see wide adoption of a quality genetic evaluation system and best-in-class indications of genetic merit. Levy-paying farmers are relying on B+LNZ Genetics to help them make better ram and bull buying decisions – decisions that will create more produce, at lower cost and for more profit. The work we do now impacts red meat outcomes for decades to come.”
Coming from a farming background Eleanor is an ideal link between farmers, geneticists and funders, focused on minimising the potential for ‘loss in translation’ and ensuring each initiative is on course to achieve its stated goals.
“We live in interesting times! Genetic understanding (and hence gain) is beginning to grow at an unprecedented rate as technology allows commercial farmers, as well as breeders, to add directly to the national genetic picture. Recording and monitoring technology on-farm is deepening our practical understanding of the cause-and-effect behind genetic developments, and is giving a clearer view for individual farmers of the right genes for their farming system. I’ve heard it referred to as the country’s biggest experiment, and it’s going to pay off handsomely.”
Genetic Evaluation Technical Manager
Sharon works predominantly with SIL, testing new developments, co-ordinating technical developments through to the B+LNZ Genetics’ extension team and problem solving. She has been with the organisation since the outset and was previously an agricultural consultant. Sharon has a Bachelor of Agricultural Science and a Masters in Animal Science (Animal Breeding Management). Alongside her SIL responsibilities, she also manages the New Zealand deer industry’s genetic evaluation
“Sheep farming systems, challenges and climate vary hugely across New Zealand. It’s important that SIL offers breeders the ability to record a range of production, health and welfare traits that address those challenges. Sheep breeding needs to be forward focused, if it’s to successfully provide long-term sustainable improvements that meet the objectives of breeders and their clients.”
Extension Officer – South Island
Annie most recently worked for Blue River Dairy, as farm operations manager, after 17 years at AgResearch, working in the fields of reproductive physiology and sheep genetics. Annie has considerable experience in performance data systems and communicating with farmers.
“B+LNZ Genetics is about connectedness. Connecting flocks and breeds through central progeny tests which help us benchmark sheep and cattle of high genetic merit for industry. We also help connect the people by providing an independent forum between breeders, commercial farmers, service providers and scientists. It’s great to be a part of keeping us all linked.”
Extension Officer – North Island
Max completed his Bachelor of Agriculture degree at Lincoln University in 2015. This included a semester at the University of New England in Armidale, where he studied breeding programme design. Max originates from a sheep and beef farm in Northern Hawke’s Bay and also worked on several studs during his degree.
“The key to B+LNZ Genetics is our ability to take science directly to farmers and breeders, to answer their questions and to meet their needs in a way they can relate to. There’s much to gain in having commercial farmers understanding and trusting the value of progeny testing so they are able to find the breeders of the best stock for their environment. In this, it is exciting to see more maternal emphasis and raw carcass measurements than have never been made before in New Zealand. There's never been a better time for an industry good body like this."
Pam provides the full range of office support for staff and board members. She is also almost invariably found behind the scenes at our events, having done much of the organising. Previously with Zoetis, Pam understands the dynamic nature of genetic development and its demands on those managing projects.