Two respected figures in SA's livestock industry have been honoured for their outstanding contributions to the red meat and livestock industries at the Southern Australia Livestock Research Council's awards.
Last week, Davies Livestock Research Centre director and University of Adelaide professor of animal breeding and genetics at the School of Animal and Veterinary Science Wayne Pitchford received the scientist/researcher of the year award, while Lucindale-based consultant Elke Hocking was the recipient of the communication/extension award.
Prof Pitchford says it is "tremendous" to be recognised for nearly 30 years of research in genetics and animal and meat science, although he says the driver has always been about the benefits to the livestock industry.
He has been lecturing at the university since 1992, and in November 2019 was appointed director of the Davies Livestock Research Centre, based at Roseworthy - a challenge he is relishing.
Among his recent successful projects has been working closely with two large breeders, 3D Wagyu genetics and Popplewell Tropical Composites, on genomic evaluation programs that he says have enabled both herds to make significant genetic gains.
A present major research area is the Heifer Development Project, which aims to develop growth targets for maximising heifer productivity.
The 3.5-year project, funded by Meat & Livestock Australia, is about halfway through its duration.
"We are working with large numbers of cattle and monitoring them from pre-joining and even weaning right through to when they have their second calf," he said.
"It will give us good grounded data to provide some recommendations on the growth rates needed to joining and condition scores and guide producers around strategic supplementary feeding."
Prof Pitchford believes improving adoption of research depends on researchers collaborating closely with producers, having small groups to encourage implementation of research outcomes and working with processors and retailers to be able to build "price signals" back to producers.
He is confident the Advanced Livestock Measurement Technologies project, which the university is a collaborator in, will, in time, lead to value-based payments for producers.
Learning is a continuous journey and if I can inspire someone coming into one of my groups to continue learning and improving themselves and their businesses into the future, then I feel like I have done my job.
Researchers are working with processors to install objective carcase measurement in abattoirs to measure meat quality and optimise carcase breakdown.
He is also excited about livestock wellbeing advances that could be made by the university working closely with the Centre for Nanoscale BioPhotonics to utilise medical technologies in livestock.
Ms Hocking also says she feels privileged to be recognised by SALRC for doing what she loves.
"As both a livestock producer and consultant, I consider myself lucky that not only do I get to practice what I preach, but that I can also learn from the innovative producers within my groups, as well as from respected industry colleagues and mentors within my networks," she said.
She has spent 25 years involved in the livestock industry across a wide range of areas, from livestock production to facilitation and adoption.
With her husband Peter, she run prime lambs and beef on properties at Lucindale and Coonawarra and has run her own consultancy business since 2015.
Much of her recent work has been with small groups of producers rather than one-on-one, delivering the Lifetime Ewe Management program and MLA's Profitable Grazing Systems workshops and facilitating financial benchmarking discussion groups.
"Learning is a continuous journey and if I can inspire someone coming into one of my groups to continue learning and improving themselves and their businesses into the future, then I feel like I have done my job," she said.
Ms Hocking believes collaboration between researchers and producer groups is critical for adoption, such as a beef producer group that is linked to the University of Adelaide's Heifer Development Project, which she facilitates.
"Having producers involved in research projects and an extension plan built in right from the start, ensures that the research is relevant and provides an opportunity for producers to be directly involved in implementing and trialling potential solutions," she said.
Another strong interest for Ms Hocking is the development of livestock adviser training and mentoring university students and early career livestock professionals to address the lack of consultancy capacity in SA.
"I was pretty fortunate to have the likes of Ken Solly and Bruce Hancock provide a lot of mentoring support to me so I feel strongly about helping others coming into the livestock industry where I can," she said.
Ms Hocking is also a member of the SA Sheep and Cattle Blueprint Working Groups and the publicity officer for the SA Livestock Consultants.
Start the day with all the big news in agriculture. Sign up here to receive our daily Stock Journal newsletter.