PhD Scholarship - Merino Sheep Production

Measurement of appetite, feed efficiency and fat metabolism to improve estimation of genotype profitability and selection indices in Merinos.


The profitability of Merino sheep enterprises is determined by stocking rate and the amount of wool and surplus sheep produced per hectare, rather than the productivity of individual animals such as clean fleece weight and growth rate or liveweight. Despite this, there is a strong emphasis on increasing fleece weight and liveweight in most Merino sheep breeding objectives. This disconnect between increasing per head production and per hectare profitability may suggest that increasing individual production traits inadvertently compromises stocking rate or other traits of economic significance. Animals from different sires vary in their levels of fatness and productivity when managed together, which indicates variation between genotypes or sire groups in their ability to utilise the feed resources and partition fat and protein. The aim of this project is to identify the importance of whole-body energy reserves (i.e. fatness) in dictating per hectare production of Merino sheep production.

The successful applicant will work within an existing project funded by Australian Wool Innovation that aims to quantify differences in systems efficiency between animals and between sire groups. The project will measure feed intake, feed efficiency and whole body energy on over 700 progeny from 30 sires from the ‘Merino Lifetime Productivity’ project to:

  1. characterize physiological differences between animals and sire groups that result in variation in whole body energy;
  2. develop novel predictors of body composition in sheep; and
  3. integrate whole body energy and feed intake measurements into whole flock bio-economic modelling to quantify differences in systems efficiency between animals and sire groups.
Funding bodyMurdoch University
Study levelPhD
ValueA full PhD Scholarship ($30,000 pa x 3 years) will be offered from Murdoch University based in Perth, and opportunities to ‘top up’ the stipend from other funding sources will be explored.
Duration3 years to start prior to 1st December 2019
Application criteriaRequirements:
  1. A First Class or 2A Honours degree or Research Masters in Animal Science/Agricultural Science or related degree
  2. Practical skills in sheep handling and measurements
  3. Ability to work under broad direction and effectively as a team member
  4. Well-developed interpersonal skills
  5. Demonstrated high levels of written and oral communication skills in English
  6. Australian citizen or permanent resident
Apply by5pm on 5th July 2019
How To applyPlease submit current CV and cover letter addressing the requirements above, by email to:
A/Prof Andrew Thompson
ContactA/Prof Andrew Thompson
0437 316 117
andrew.thompson@murdoch.edu.au