Head Shepherd

Feed efficiency and behaviours in sheep with Tricia Johnson

January 23, 2023 Season 2023 Episode 117
Feed efficiency and behaviours in sheep with Tricia Johnson
Head Shepherd
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Head Shepherd
Feed efficiency and behaviours in sheep with Tricia Johnson
Jan 23, 2023 Season 2023 Episode 117

Send us a Text Message.

 This week on the Head Shepherd podcast we have another senior scientist of AgResearch, Tricia Johnson.

Following on from our podcast with Dr Suzanne Rowe on "Genetic selection for lower methane in ruminants", we invited Tricia on to focus on her research in one of Marks favourite topics, feed efficiency and body composition.

Tricia has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to sheep phenotypes and genetics; from muscling and meat quality traits to Facial Eczema .

Mark starts off this epic podcast with the Myomax gene.

"Early 2000's when Texel's were gaining prominence in New Zealand [...] We identified a region of the myostatin gene which was associated with increased muscling in the Texels."

Tricia dives into more about muscling and fat, which then leads to the topic of feed use efficiency.

"We've known for a long time that feed use efficiency is a really important economic trait in terms of feed cost, but also in terms of animals being able to be a little more resilient in the face of variable feed amounts" She explains.

Tricia walks us through the trial that began back in 2015. "We have 6 weeks where we have daily feed intake recording.  Any time an animal goes into a feeder we see the timestamp of when she goes in, how long she's there for and how much feed she eats for that feeding event." This gives a fantastic profile of feeding events over the trial period.

"We also take live weights twice a week ... we have a really nice profile of her growth and her feed intake at the time and a whole lot of behavioural traits of how she's eating that feed"

Mark asks about those behavioural traits and if they discovered anything interesing.

Tricia tells us about a fascinating finding when they ran the BLNZG Low Input Sheep Progeny Test animals through the intake facility. 

"One of the really interesting things, in terms of looking it some of these behaviour traits, happened in the first cohort of these [low input] girls."

After their Farm manager at the time noticed a "bunch" of them were refusing to transition into the facility, something highly unusual after over 2,000 sheep had previously done so sucessfully. 

So, Tricia wondered if they were all from the same low input sire? And they were. He was also a leading ram in a certain trait, can you guess which one? 

Tricias knowledge in feeding efficiency and behaviour, the genetics behind them and the resulting factors of those behavioural patterns is just incredible. You'll want to listen to this podcast a few times! 

Thank you Tricia for sharing your time with us and our listeners. 


Head Shepherd is brought to you by neXtgen Agri International Limited, we help livestock farmers get the most out of the genetics they farm with. Get in touch with us if you would like to hear more about how we can help you do what you do best - info@nextgenagri.com.

Thanks to our sponsors at MSD Animal Health and Allflex, and Heiniger Australia and New Zealand.

These companies are leaders in their respective fields and it is a privilege to have them supporting the Head Shepherd Podcast. Please consider them when making product choices, as they are instrumental in enabling us to bring you this podcast each week.

Check out Heiniger's product range HERE
Check out the MSD range HERE
Check out Allflex products HERE

Show Notes

Send us a Text Message.

 This week on the Head Shepherd podcast we have another senior scientist of AgResearch, Tricia Johnson.

Following on from our podcast with Dr Suzanne Rowe on "Genetic selection for lower methane in ruminants", we invited Tricia on to focus on her research in one of Marks favourite topics, feed efficiency and body composition.

Tricia has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to sheep phenotypes and genetics; from muscling and meat quality traits to Facial Eczema .

Mark starts off this epic podcast with the Myomax gene.

"Early 2000's when Texel's were gaining prominence in New Zealand [...] We identified a region of the myostatin gene which was associated with increased muscling in the Texels."

Tricia dives into more about muscling and fat, which then leads to the topic of feed use efficiency.

"We've known for a long time that feed use efficiency is a really important economic trait in terms of feed cost, but also in terms of animals being able to be a little more resilient in the face of variable feed amounts" She explains.

Tricia walks us through the trial that began back in 2015. "We have 6 weeks where we have daily feed intake recording.  Any time an animal goes into a feeder we see the timestamp of when she goes in, how long she's there for and how much feed she eats for that feeding event." This gives a fantastic profile of feeding events over the trial period.

"We also take live weights twice a week ... we have a really nice profile of her growth and her feed intake at the time and a whole lot of behavioural traits of how she's eating that feed"

Mark asks about those behavioural traits and if they discovered anything interesing.

Tricia tells us about a fascinating finding when they ran the BLNZG Low Input Sheep Progeny Test animals through the intake facility. 

"One of the really interesting things, in terms of looking it some of these behaviour traits, happened in the first cohort of these [low input] girls."

After their Farm manager at the time noticed a "bunch" of them were refusing to transition into the facility, something highly unusual after over 2,000 sheep had previously done so sucessfully. 

So, Tricia wondered if they were all from the same low input sire? And they were. He was also a leading ram in a certain trait, can you guess which one? 

Tricias knowledge in feeding efficiency and behaviour, the genetics behind them and the resulting factors of those behavioural patterns is just incredible. You'll want to listen to this podcast a few times! 

Thank you Tricia for sharing your time with us and our listeners. 


Head Shepherd is brought to you by neXtgen Agri International Limited, we help livestock farmers get the most out of the genetics they farm with. Get in touch with us if you would like to hear more about how we can help you do what you do best - info@nextgenagri.com.

Thanks to our sponsors at MSD Animal Health and Allflex, and Heiniger Australia and New Zealand.

These companies are leaders in their respective fields and it is a privilege to have them supporting the Head Shepherd Podcast. Please consider them when making product choices, as they are instrumental in enabling us to bring you this podcast each week.

Check out Heiniger's product range HERE
Check out the MSD range HERE
Check out Allflex products HERE