Sheep Research

Genetic evaluations for sheep

The AGBU sheep team is responsible for the R&D behind the across flock genetic evaluation system used by the Australian sheep industry. We develop and run the OVIS software system, producing Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) which are delivered to ram breeders by the Sheep Genetics services, MERINOSELECT and LAMBPLAN. Our service provides technical and diagnostic support for both Australian and international evaluations, along with the development of new diagnostic tools and reports.

ASBVs are produced routinely by AGBU in large across-flock multi trait analyses for the major Australian breed groups:

The Terminal sire and Maternal analyses are also across breed evaluations.

ASBVs are calculated for a variety of economic traits across these breed groups, including:


In addition to ASBVs, the OVIS software calculates accuracies on individual animals for all traits, and the level of genetic linkage between flocks. These are key components in the quality assurance of ASBVs.

Through MERINOSELECT, we support the Merino Superior Sires independent progeny testing system.

International evaluations

Genomic analyses

The Australian sheep industry has established important genomic reference populations through a research program carried out by the Sheep CRC and its partner organisations.

The AGBU sheep team maintains the genomic analysis pipeline for sheep, supporting genomic predictions based on the 50K SNP platform for a variety of traits, including hard-to-measure carcass and eating quality traits.

Genomic estimated breeding values have been available to ram breeders from 2011, and genomic information has been fully integrated with ASBVs from 2014.

Breeding objectives and breeding program design

Industry standard and breeder customised selection indexes are developed using the SheepObject system. These indexes describe the best way to combine ASBVs to achieve genetic improvement targeting economically sound breeding objectives.

The sheep team also work directly with advisors and breeders to design breeding programs which maximise genetic improvement based on ASBVs and indexes.

Student opportunities

We currently have opportunities for study at the under-graduate and post-graduate levels in a variety of areas:

Further information

The following publications provide technical detail on our R&D.


Our scientists engaged in sheep research

Andrew Swan (Principal Scientist)

Andrew is focussed on developing genetic tools and information, including the development of the OVIS genetic evaluation software, and impromement to breeding objectives and selection indexes.

02 6773 3209


Daniel Brown (Principal Scientist)

Daniel's primary focus is the research and development of the OVIS software package which is used to estimate Australian Sheep Breeding values (ASBVs) for publication by Sheep Genetics.

02 6773 2160


Kim Bunter (Principal Scientist)

Kim works on breeding program design, factors affecting mortality as well as reproduction and maternal performance.

02 6773 3788


Li Li (Senior Scientist)

Li is working on single step genetic analysis and GxE analysis for the Sheep CRC.

02 6773 3790


Elena Dehnavi (Research Fellow)

Elena's work is focused on breeding objectives and breeding program design, and includes updating terminal selection indexes and estimating genetic parameters.

02 6773 1651


Phillip Gurman (Research Fellow)

Phillip’s research covers improved methods for the use of genomic data in routine genetic evaluations in sheep and other improvements that can be applied to routine genetic evaluations to benefit the industry.

02 6773 1742


Aaron McMillan (Junior Researcher)

Aaron's main role is to oversee the Sheep Genetics routine analyses and assist in enhancing the OVIS genetic evaluation software.

02 6773 2956


Sam Walkom (Senior Research Fellow)

Sam is working on genetic variation in ewe body condition across the production cycle, including the genetic relationship between adult fat and condition and the reproductive performance of ewes.

02 6773 2183




Funding providers