Sue Hatcher commenced studying agricultural science at the University of Western Australia with the aim of gaining knowledge that would enable her to improve the productivity of sheep. After graduating with Honours in 1989, she undertook a PhD on the potential of Awassi sheep and their crosses to cause wool fibre contamination. She then worked as an extension specialist with the Woolmark Company based in Fremantle. During this time, she made the most of opportunities to involve herself in early stage wool processing and mill operation.
Her commitment to on-farm research led her to accept a position in1997 with NSW Agriculture in Orange to specialise in Merino breeding. In this position, Sue focused her research on genetic selection for wool traits, which influence the processing efficiency of the fleece, and sheep productivity and welfare. More recently, she has investigated aspects of breeding ewe management including both lamb and weaner survival and the consequences of selecting sheep for high wool production. Sue has led NSW DPI’s involvement in the development of the national Merino Ewe Lifetime Productivity project. She was also a member of the Steering Committee for the development of the national PISC Wool RD&E Plan. Her research has led to the publication of 28 papers in high impact journals and over 40 full conference papers, many of which have been presented at applied scientific meetings targeting the woolgrowers of Australia. She has supervised Masters and PhD students from the University of New England and Deakin University. It was therefore not surprising that Sue rose rapidly through the research ranks of the NSW DPI to Principal Research Scientist.
During this time, Sue has made significant contributions to the Australian Sheep CRC program, in leading the Wool Biology project, which included the genetic analysis of the wool production and quality data from the Sheep CRC’s Information Nucleus. She also led the ‘Applications of Nutrient Partitioning’ project in the CRC that increased understanding of the partitioning of nutrients between wool, meat production and reproduction in Merino sheep. The development of management options to improve the whiteness and handle of Australian Merino wool and correlations with reproductive performance were also important aspects of this program. Her research outcomes have made an important contribution to the development of precision sheep production systems throughout Australia.
While Sue has made important contribution to the scientific literature, it is Sue’s determination to ensure her experimental findings are translated into extension messages for the Merino wool growers of Australia that has been a major part of her career legacy. She was responsible for the development of two industry training programs; Merino Breeding: A Commercial Focus, developed in 1999, and Keeping Productive Older Ewes in 2012. She also led the publication of two important newsletter series ‘Finewool Outwest’ (1997–2000) and ‘NSW Lifetime Wool’ (2005–2008) both of which were distributed nationally. Demonstrating her commitment to extension, Sue was an integral member of the team that won the CRC Star Award in 2014 for high-level engagement with small and medium size businesses through the success of the Managing Scanned Ewes program; importantly she was also a part of the RamSelect team that won the award for Excellence in Innovation.
Sue has served in many editorial capacities with literature targeting farmers at branch member meetings within NSW through to the editing of the Biennial proceedings of the Society. This has extended to her role as Associate Editor of Animal Production Science. Sue has also acted as branch Treasurer of ASAP for many years and as National Treasurer for the years leading up to the 2014 and 2018 conferences.
In recognition of Sue Hatcher’s contribution to the economic viability of the Australian sheep industry through research and extension leadership, and her unwavering support ASAP, the Australian Society of Animal Production is pleased to enrol her as a Fellow of the Society.