John Wilkins

Research interests

  • Animal production and reproductive physiology
  • Prediction of animal growth and carcass composition
  • Improvement of beef quality
  • Increasing herd fertility and efficiency in female reproductive rates
  • Use of ovarian imaging to monitor heifer puberty
  • Improvement of animal production in developing countries


John Wilkins commenced his career in Agriculture in 1966 with a traineeship to study at the University of Sydney. There followed over 35 years in sheep and cattle research (production and reproduction) - with his first appointment in 1971 - working at various DPI locations including Glenfield (now EMAI), Trangie, Tamworth, Grafton and Wagga Wagga, with a period at University of WA for PhD studies.

John has extensive research experience in animal production - diagnosing causes and formulation of strategies to improve sheep fertility; effects of selenium deficiency on growth, wool production and reproduction; development of the technique for diagnosis of pregnancy and litter size in sheep using ultrasound imaging; factors controlling ovulation rate and embryo loss in sheep; induction and management strategies for twinning in cattle; development of immunological control of ovulation rate in cattle; examination of factors controlling follicle development in cattle; use of ultrasound imaging for reproduction and live body composition studies.

Recent research in Beef CRC projects has focused on the interactions of genetics, nutrition and meat science, specifically examining effects of growth paths and differing genotypes on carcass traits and meat eating quality, involvement in development of models to predict growth and body composition, leading to the use of electronic technology for live and carcass composition.

Overseas projects have been a significant component of John’s work involving several projects in China (PRC) – AusAID project on sheep production in Urumqi, Xinjiang Province, PRC; training programs for Kunming Municipal Peoples Government/Animal Husbandry Bureau, Kunming, Yunnan Province, PRC; and most recently ACIAR Projects  - initially, “Increasing Milk Production from Cattle in Tibet”, which led to “Integrated crop and dairy systems in Tibet Autonomous Region”, with a further project “Developing profitable dairy and sheep meat production systems in Central Tibet” (including “Evaluation of ‘new’ pasture species in NSW”), all centred at Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, PRC.


  • Bachelor of Science (Agriculture), University of Sydney, 1971
  • Master of Science, University of New South Wales, 1980
  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Western Australia, 1991
  • Cert IV in Workplace Training & Assessment, Murrumbidgee College of Agriculture, NSW
  • Advanced Certificate in Computer Programming, TAFE, NSW

Current projects

  • Monitoring heifer puberty by imaging ovarian development – estimating genetic parameters.
  • ACIAR -  “Developing profitable dairy and sheep meat production systems in Central Tibet”, with Australian component of “Evaluation of ‘new’ pasture species in NSW”.
  • Further development of cattle breeding spreadsheet model to describe calving pattern and cow/calf output.

Selected recent publications

Clayton EH, Wilkins JF, Friend MA (2016) Increased proportion of female lambs by feeding Border Leicester x Merino ewes a diet high in omega-6 fatty acids around mating. Animal Production Science, 56 (5), 824-833.

Zhuoga X, Wilkins JF, Friend MA, PiltzJW (2016) Effect of supplementing barley straw with lucerne silage or cottonseed meal on diet digestibility and growth rate of steers. Animal Feed Science and Technology, 218, 84-92.

Wilkins JF, McKiernan WA, Walmsley BJ, McPhee MJ (2015). Automated data capture using laser technology to enhance live cattle assessment and description. Australian Farm Business Management Journal, 12, 70-77.

Donoghue KA, Arthur PF, Wilkins JF, Herd RM (2011) Onset of puberty and early-life reproduction in Angus females divergently selected for post-weaning residual feed intake. Animal Production Science, 51 (3), 183–190.

Wilkins JF, McKiernan WA, Irwin J, Orchard B, Barwick SA (2009) Performance of steer progeny of sires differing in genetic potential for fatness and meat yield following post-weaning growth at different rates: 1. Growth and live animal composition. Animal Production Science, 49 (6), 515-524.

McKiernan WA, Wilkins JF, Irwin J, Orchard B, Barwick SA (2009) Performance of steer progeny of sires differing in genetic potential for fatness and meat yield following post-weaning growth at different rates: 2. Carcass traits. Animal Production Science, 49 (6), 525-534.

Paltridge N, Jin Tao, Unkovich M, Bonamano A, Gason A, Grover S, Wilkins J, Tashi Nyima, Coventry D (2009)Agriculture in central Tibet: an assessment of climate, farming systems, and strategies to boost production. Crop & Pasture Science, 60, 627–639.

Hennessy DW and Wilkins JF (2005)  Efficiency of calf production from twin-bearing beef cows on an intensive pasture system in subtropical Australia. Asian-Aust. Journal of Animal Science, 18 (12), 1735-1740.

Professional associations and activities

  • Member Australian Society of Animal Production
  • Member Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Fields of research

  • 070201 Animal Breeding
  • 070202 Growth and Development
  • 070204 Nutrition
  • 070206 Reproduction

Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC)

Keyword/phrase list of research interests

  • Beef cattle
  • Reproductive physiology
  • Meat quality
  • Animal growth
  • Carcase composition

Contact details

Email: john.wilkins@dpi.nsw.gov.au
Location: Wagga Wagga Agricultural Institute