NEW South Wales Merino breeder Mark Mortimer has been awarded the prestigious Helen Newton Turner Medal for his major contributions to Australia’s livestock genetics research and development.
The Tullamore animal genetics practitioner was presented the award at 25th Association for the Advancement of Animal Breeding and Genetics Conference in Perth last week.
The medal is awarded in memory of Dr. Helen Newton Turner, the distinguished researcher renowned for her dedication to enhancing sheep genetics for superior wool production. It celebrates exceptional accomplishments and remarkable contributions to the field of animal genetics in Australia.
Chair of the Helen Newton Turner Trust and deputy Director General of Agriculture for NSW’s Department of Primary Industries, Kate Lorimer Ward said Mr Mortimer was a well-deserved recipient of the medal.
“Mr Mortimer has played a pivotal role in enhancing the genetic quality of livestock in Australia through his remarkable achievements in implementation, innovation, and research,” she said.
“For example, in 2003 Mark worked closely with the Sheep CRC to develop the use of RFID tags in the stud, successfully developing software linking the systems for data collection and decision implementation.”
Mr Mortimer is currently the technology and data analysis manager for the Centre Plus Merino Stud nucleus and CP Merino Group, a family partnership with his father Robert and brother Doug. His skill in data management and attention to detail is demonstrated by the Centre Plus Merino group’s rating of 98.6 percent for the accuracy of data entered into the Sheep Genetics database.
“It’s amazing to learn that his journey into this field began at just 16 when he took on a data entry position with his parents’ sheep breeding operation,” Ms Lorimer-Ward said.
“Today, his status as one of Australia’s leading genetic practitioners is demonstrated by his inclusion on many industry advisory groups, including the Sheep Genetics Advisory committee, and Meat & Livestock Australia’s National Livestock Genetics Consortium.”
Mr Mortimer said winning the award was a tremendously humbling moment.
“I know all of the people who have won it in the past and they’ve contributed tremendously to the genetic outcomes of our industry.
“Some of the best tools for the breeding of cattle, sheep and other animals, were built and developed by these people,” he said.
“It’s quite amazing to be part of that group, from a breeder perspective.”
Mr Mortimer said he spends a lot of time giving industry presentations on genetics.
He said there is now a lot of focus on making sheep and livestock more sustainable animals, following the feedback from the broader society.
“There is a lot more emphasis on animal welfare now, as opposed to just direct animal production.”
He said are also a lot of papers coming out about work being done on methane, tied up with sustainability.
“Researchers are developing a lot of new traits in that area for breeders to use.”
Adding to the 2023 AAABG honours list, beef genetics research scientist Dr Brad Walmsley received the inaugural Helen Newton Turner Bright Futures Award, acknowledging his accomplishments as a rising talent in animal genetics.
“Dr Walmsley is a real asset to the Australian beef industry through his continued initiative in applied quantitative genetics,” Ms Lorimer-Ward said.
Dr Walmsley is a research scientist at the Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit (AGBU), NSW DPI’s joint venture with the University of New England. He provides leadership in the BREEDPLAN research team responsible for the technical and implementation stewardship of BREEDPLAN and BreedObject. His guidance also extends to supervising postgraduate students, post-doctoral researchers, and staff, ensuring the continued success and implementation of BreedObject.
Among his many achievements, including 18 scientific journal papers and 11 genetics presentations since 2014, Dr Walmsley is an active contributor to the design and ongoing conduct of the Southern Multibreed project, a major cattle genetics project involving NSW DPI, the University of New England, AGBU and Meat and Livestock Australia.
“Awards like this not only encourage and inspire those working in animal genetics, but also reinforce the pivotal role it plays in improving animal productivity, health, welfare, enhancing sustainability in agriculture, and conserving biodiversity,” Ms Lorimer-Ward said.