Valued extension specialist retires

Jon Condon, 04/07/2011

Wayne Upton, a respected and well-known figure in Australia’s beef industry producer extension and education circles for the past 40 years, retired last week in Armidale.

A significant contributor to the success of the industry’s Beef CRC programs, Mr Upton graduated from the University of NSW on a Department of Agriculture cadetship, before spending the first two decades of his career as a livestock officer with the NSW Department of Agriculture.

He was also posted for a period on AA Company’s Wrotham Park breeding property near Chillagoe in far North Queensland.

His final appointment with the Department was as special livestock officer, beef cattle breeding. 

He then spent some years as private consultant to the beef industry in various roles in Armidale, as well as lecturing at the University of New England.

Since 1992 Mr Upton has been an extension specialist and consultant at UNE’s Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit where he was responsible for extension of the use of AGBU products including Breedplan and BreedObject.

It was during his time in Queensland in the 1970s that he became interested in the environmental and genetic effects on reproductive performance and overall production in cattle.

That interest carried right through to his eventual involvement in the applied aspects of the three Beef CRCs, the first of which started in 1993.

“The Beef CRCs gave us the opportunity for direct application of genetic evaluation and breeding programs, particularly using carcase and reproductive traits, and incorporating these into selection indexes to balance selection,” Mr Upton said.

“It is also important that producers understand how to integrate genetics with culling and selection programs. For example, we already use ‘days-to-calving’ data in Breedplan and recommend that seedstock producers, especially in the North, look carefully at their first-calf cows which are back in calf as three-year-olds and ensure they retain their progeny. Reproductive performance in the North will be lifted accordingly,” he said.

Mr Upton’s role has seen him in charge of on-farm research projects responsible for introducing new technologies to the beef industry such as real-time ultrasound for measurement of eye muscle area, fat and marbling. He was also responsible for testing accredited ultrasound scanners who collect data for Breedplan.

From 1992 to 1999 he was the national coordinator of what was then the world’s largest beef progeny testing program conducted through the Beef CRC. He was responsible for the implementation of the breeding and measurement of progeny of some 350 sires across 30 herds from seven different breeds in southern and northern Australia.

“The design needed to be robust enough to allow the progeny to be split across numerous treatments such as grain or grass finishing at three different slaughter weights, and still give valid sire comparisons for slaughter traits,” he said.

Mr Upton said he always enjoyed interaction with cattle breeders and producers.
“With their help, we’ve really improved data collection in Breedplan with the design of commercial progeny test programs for individual herds and the Shorthorn Society through the Durham Research Project,” he said.

He remains an unabashed proponent of extension techniques including Beef Profit Partnerships (BPP) and intensive workshop activities. The BPP network across Australia and NZ comprises beef producers interested in improving the profitability of their beef businesses with an initial target of an additional 5 percent improvement in annual business profit within two years. 

In the future, Mr Upton won’t be as directly involved in Beef CRC activities but he will be keeping a watchful eye on developments – in between feeding cattle and improving the pastures on his farm outside Armidale, where he and wife Chris run a small seedstock and commercial herd.


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