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18 December 2002


Agents back to school


Stock and station agents are sharpening their pencils to learn about beef genetics from Meat &Wool Innovation (MWI) beef genetics coordinator Russell Priest, whose quest is to raise the standard of genetics in the national beef herd.


Priest said that Meat New Zealand and the Wool Board fund MWI to work towards the goal of increasing average daily growth rates by 0.3kg/day for beef, and this can partly be done by raising the level of knowledge about beef genetics among stock agents. "We've had some feedback from the field that suggested the level of genetic knowledge among stock and station agents could be improved, so we offered a short genetics workshop to all livestock companies in the Manawatu, Wanganui and Taihape area."


Priest said Wrightson's accepted the offer and its agents scored well in the multichoice questionnaire . "I was pretty impressed with their level of knowledge. The agents are the ones on the ground who have regular contact with farmers, so it is important that they can give their clients sound genetic advice when selecting animals." 


There were some holes in knowledge that the workshops helped to fill, Priest said.  "Some people had no idea about how strongly traits are inherited and how to financially prioritize traits, which are important factors in selecting rams and bulls".


Wrightson's area manager Paul Lysaght said he was very pleased with the MWI  workshops. "Genetic improvement is important in stud stock to ensure we meet the market needs of tomorrow," he said. "It's also important for our guys to be able to advise farmers on things like estimated breeding values (EBVs)."


Priest said the feedback has been very positive: "They are talking about taking this workshop nationwide once work slows down and the agents can find the time to fit it in."


Priest said MWI hopes to take the workshops further. "Taranaki Farmers have shown a keen interest in the programme, and so have some breed societies we have offered it to. We have done something similar with the Marlborough Women in Agriculture group as well," he said. 


Genetic improvement is important for New Zealand to remain at the forefront of world agricultural production and to keep ahead of constantly rising costs, Priest said. "MWI is committed to improvement in the genetics of New Zealand livestock. By keeping these genetic workshops nice and simple, and avoiding technical jargon, we believe everyone who attends can come away with a good understanding of how genetics work." 





For more information contact; Matthew Dick, Communications Project Officer

(04) 474 0697, (027) 271 7593, 0800 647 000




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