From Norway to Cowra: interesting research at Cowra DPI

PhD candidate Muhammad Azher is based at the Cowra NSW DPI and is looking into Norwegian sheep meat and farming practices.
PhD candidate Muhammad Azher is based at the Cowra NSW DPI and is looking into Norwegian sheep meat and farming practices.

Consider this: you’re a sheep farmer in Norway. 

Due to the freezing conditions in the country, there are only a few months of the year where sheep and lamb meat quality is at its highest. 

Unfortunately, those few months do not match up with the meat needs and festivals of a certain section of the population – Muslims. 

What do you do?

This dilemma is being explored by PhD candidate Muhammad Azher, who is spending a few months researching at Cowra’s Agricultural Research and Advisory Station. 

Under the guidance of Dr David Hopkins, Mr Azher will spend a few months in Cowra to work in the lab and get to the crux of his research. 

“My research is focused on Norwegian sheep meat and Norwegian sheep farming system and the quality between Norwegian sheep breeds and how they are going to be consumed, for Muslims especially,” he said. 

“In Oslo, the majority of Muslims are Pakistani and in this PhD we are trying investigate how those people are consuming the sheep’s meat or lamb’s meat and how this current, existing Norwegian sheep farming system benefits their needs, level of meat need and especially some festivals.”

Dr Hopkins said there are a number of biological and economic challenges Mr Azher’s research will need to address. 

“It’s a defined cycle, they’ve got a limited production time, they slaughter everything, freeze it, keep it… the winter time, all the productive sheep are housed inside so they don’t want to keep other animals because there is already a cost in feeding those ewes so there’s a degree of economics in it too which Muhammad is going to have to look at,” he said. 

“So the question is back on this segment of the consumers, given that they’re only 4.5 per cent of the population, they are actually prepared to pay to get that product basically out of season?” 

“Norway is still learning from developed nations and Australia is very far ahead of Norway in meat science and meat quality,” Mr Azher said. 

Mr Ahzer’s research has been funded by Norwegian processor Fatland and the Norwegian Research Council.