Bill Sandilands’ life-long dedication to improving sheep genetics has been recognised, with the Billandri Poll Merino stud founder named a fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Animal Breeding and Genetics. Mr Sandilands, of Kendenup, was the only WA representative named among the group of five unveiled as fellows at the Association’s annual conference at the University of WA on July 27. “I was honoured to be recognised amongst many great people in the association,” he said. “The AAABG has given me an opportunity to be aware of what research is going on by our leading researchers and geneticists. “I was pleased with the number of WA producers at this year’s conference and this was noted by many of those from other States.” Those also announced as fellows were University of New England geneticist Andrew Swan, University of Sydney Professor Herman Raadsma, University of Adelaide Professor Wayne Pitchford and New Zealand-based AGResearch senior scientist Ken Dobb. AAABG president Dr Bronwyn Clarke said Mr Sandilands had been a long term advocate for genetic evaluation in the sheep industry, and valued association member who had previously served as president. “We are so pleased to recognise his continued support for livestock genetics,” she said. “As a past president of AAABG he is a very deserving recipient.” Mr Sandilands attributed his interest in genetics to his Wesley College biology teacher Mildred Manning, whose “thorough knowledge and love of biology shone through”. The importance of quantitative genetics became even clearer when he attended a ram sale at Cranmore Park in the mid-1950s, where he read a catalogue that explained the value of progeny testing. After returning to the family farm in the 1950s, Mr Sandilands’ father nurtured his son’s his interest in sheep breeding. The pair bought 83 Merino ewes and registered Billandri stud, starting what has led to a successful seven decades in business. Mr Sandilands’ started off recording fleece weights and measured performance and quickly applied his genetic knowledge to a commercial herd of Poll Shorthorn cattle, using the Beef Recording Scheme to identify the best and worst cows. During the past few decades, he has keenly followed the sheep breeding experiments of Helen Newton Turner and Bob Dunne, and was the first WA breeder to use a selection index that included fleece weights, body weight and fibre diameter. He uses the Woolplan selection index and was a strong supporter of the first Sire Referencing Scheme to benchmark rams. Mr Sandilands has held a number of roles in the State’s agriculture industry, as one of the original members of the Federation of Performance Sheep Breeders of WA — including serving as president from 1991 to 2020. He is also a committee member of the Stud Merino Breeders Association of WA, an advisory committee member at the Mt Barker High School, member and president of the Performance Sheep Breeders of WA and member of Merino Benchmark. His swag of industry roles also includes as a range of memberships — including of the Committee of Merino Lifetime Production Trial, the Australian Sire Evaluation Association, the steering committee for the Australian Sheep Genetics and Merino Select and of the Merino Lifetime Productivity Project.