Lincoln gene lab trio recognised with Primary Industries award

14 July 2021 | Corporate News

The work of three members of Lincoln University’s Gene-Marker Laboratory has been recognised in this year’s Primary Industries Awards.

Lab director Professor Jon Hickford, principal researcher Dr Huitong Zhou, and lab manager Freeman Fang, were given the Science and Research Award at the ceremony on 6 July, in recognition of their work to breed healthier, more resilient livestock.

The judges said they were impressed with the holistic approach of the Lincoln University team, who brought a highly professional genetic approach to the business of farming.

 "Their genetic programme was impressive, as was their relationship with farmers. This guaranteed a practical result from a highly specialised scientific process."

The lab’s main research focus is genetic variation in ruminants, particularly in sheep but also cows, and its association with economically important traits.

It has developed a test for genes, which underpin milk, meat and wool production, and make livestock resilient to disease and environmental challenges, identifying superior animals.

It also tests for A1 and A2 milk in dairy cattle, diseases such as foot rot, and environmental resilience traits like cold tolerance and improved intra-muscular fat content in meat.

Professor Hickford has worked at Lincoln University since 1989, teaching science and agriculture degree programmes, and has delivered 11 commercial gene-marker tests to market.

"With these technologies, we have instituted programmes for the eradication of dermatosparaxis in white Dorper sheep in Australia and NZ, for the eradication of microphthalmia in Texel sheep in Australia and NZ, and for the eradication of Gaucher disease in Australian Southdown sheep," he said.

"I share my research findings about wool, genetics, and breeding with farming groups and sheep and cattle breeders in NZ and Australia and am committed to making my research accessible to the younger generation."

Lincoln University alumna Emma Boase, who holds a Bachelor of Agribusiness and Food Marketing and is now People Capability Manager at Horticulture New Zealand, was presented with the Lincoln-sponsored Emerging Leader Award.

Photo: Dr Huitong Zhou, Freeman Fang and Professor Jon Hickford in their lab.