The Animal Science group encompasses a wide range of disciplines, with the purpose of improving the nutrition, health, quality traits and reproductive performance of animals to achieve efficient and sustainable animal production and delivery of high quality animal products.
We use a broad range of nutrition, physiology and genomics-based research tools to improve economically important traits such as survival, growth rate, health, fecundity, meat and milk production (yield and quality) and disease resistance while minimising environmental impact and use of chemicals in ruminant livestock production.
Our teams have recognised expertise in the parasitic and infectious diseases of pastoral livestock, animal genomics, ruminant nutrition and animal physiology including reproduction and microbiology behind healthy, productive and efficient ruminant livestock.
Our research covers the spectrum of fundamental to applied science that focuses on high quality science-driven research. We have access to fully-equipped dairy, sheep and beef farms with modern facilities for on-farm animal trials, and fully equipped animal facilities for more detailed trials for small and large ruminants including the NZ Ruminant Methane Measurement Centre. Our laboratory facilities are well appointed to support the range of research undertaken.
DNA testing analyses are provided through GenomNZ™ which includes DNA profiling, parentage testing, pedigree verification, sire/dam match, DNA-match, identity test, hybrid identification and single gene tests. We also retain core service in embryology and semen biology and provide advice to artificial breeding organisations and embryo technology practitioners. We also undertake independent product testing services for commercial clients.
The Animal Genomic team use genomics technologies, such as genome sequencing and SNP chips, to drive genetic gain, largely in the sheep and beef industries. This involves selecting economically important traits, measuring these in various linked in reference herds and flocks across the country and identifying genotypes of animals that carry the desired traits to assist breeding decisions.
Diseases and parasites currently cost New Zealand farmers >$1 billion p.a. in lost production and treatments. In parallel with this resistance to drugs poses a significant risk to our ability to continue to maintain healthy livestock. Also, consumers are demanding higher animal welfare standards from agricultural producers matched with lower chemical inputs, and providing information with the product supporting these approaches can increase consumers’ willingness to pay a premium for the product.
The Animal Health Team is focusing on two complex interlinked research themes that we see as key to solving these problems: 1.) Better Disease Control Through Management and 2.) Vaccines. In five years the Animal Health Team is aiming to be the:
• Global leader in transforming parasite ecology and pesticide resistance data into mathematical models that can predict disease
risk and provide farmers with decision support information
• Global leader in developing tools and recommendations for managing drug resistant parasites in livestock
• Global leader in developing vaccines against parasite and infectious diseases.
The Animal Nutrition team’s core focus is to improve the understanding of the digestive, absorptive and metabolic processes involved in nutrient utilisation by ruminants, and apply this knowledge to increase the efficiency at which feed nutrients are converted into animal product.
The animal reproduction team uses knowledge of the basic mechanisms underpinning ovulation, embryo development and embryo survival to develop strategies for improving reproductive performance in sheep and cattle.
The Rumen Microbiology team unravels the biology and complex interactions of the obligately anaerobic microorganisms in the rumen, with the ultimate aim of improving animal productivity and reducing enteric methane emissions.
The team strives to link hypotheses stemming from genomic analyses with functional characterisation of microbes through their metabolic activity and associations with other rumen microorganisms.
The Farm Systems & Environment group look at land use and land management in relation to environmental impacts and climate change.
Our goals are to improve dairy farming, beef, lamb and deer production systems by producing innovative research on soil and water management, pasture fertilisation and farm nutrient management, while reducing negative impacts on the quality of soil, water and atmosphere and ecosystems.
The People and Agriculture team provides an understanding of the context in which people live, learn, make decisions and act. By doing so it identifies the drivers of human actions to develop alternative strategies and practices to improve outcomes for pastoral agriculture.
The role of the Foods & Bio-based Products group is to create the knowledge and tools to develop high value foods, ingredients and products from pastoral-based agriculture.
We focus on the production and supply of the consumer goods that are the end result of the agricultural value chain, with the outputs tailored to market and consumer preferences.
We research, develop and produce a diverse range of consumer materials from meat and dairy foods, woollen carpet and fabric, health and beauty products to the tools and machinery to support these industries.
The Dairy Foods team works with dairy processors and food manufacturers to support the development of new functional food ingredients.
Our strength is the ability to link high quality science on the composition, function and activity of milk and milk components with the practicalities of dairy processing and food manufacturing. We are able to assist in the discovery and characterisation of new functional food ingredients and provide advice on how they can be prepared and formulated to provide maximum benefit to the manufacturer and consumer.
The Food Assurance and Meat Quality team has a diverse array of capabilities in food microbiology, toxicology, meat science and sensing technologies that support New Zealand’s agri-food industry market access, food assurance and quality requirements.
The Food, Nutrition and Health team has strong capabilities in evaluating food function, nutrition and health effects, utilising both in vitro and in vivo models, and the application of advanced genomic and metabolomic approaches. These capabilities are applied to a wide range of New Zealand food science and technology applications, including evaluation of the influence of foods on gut microflora and digestive health.
The Proteins and Biomaterials team conducts wide-ranging R&D on biomolecules from agricultural sources. The team has strong capabilities in mass spectrometry, proteomics, lipidomics, protein chemistry, process engineering, bio-based material prototyping and micro- and nano-structural analysis. This research supports product quality, processing improvement and product development across the primary sector.
The Textiles team’s core focus is to understand the current and future needs of the global users of New Zealand wool and develop the knowledge and technologies to meet these needs, thereby increasing demand for New Zealand wool.
We also carry out product development (including identifying supply chains), create wool/textile traceability systems, and we apply our textile-related skills to other fibres and biomaterials for the benefit of New Zealand.
We develop new tools and technologies to improve on-farm productivity, enhance the performance of New Zealand’s pastoral, agricultural and biotechnology industries and build on New Zealand’s position at the forefront of these sectors. The supporting research we carry out will lead to new commercial and knowledge opportunities in the future.
Our teams are engaged in underpinning science and plant breeding research to create high-performance forage legume and grass varieties for New Zealand farms and the international market. We develop animal safe endophyte strains that add value to production from elite grasses, and are also pursing R&D related to biofuels, speciality forages, new endophyte traits and animal/forage interactions.
Our group is home to world-leading teams in the genetic development of forages and encompasses a broad range of capabilities with staff working in areas from fundamental to applied research. The majority of our cultivars are commercialised through Grasslanz Technology.
The Biocontrol and Biosecurity team is all about prevention and cure. Our science is focussed on reducing the risk of pests entering the country through contributions to the Better Border Biosecurity programme across themes in risk analysis, surveillance, eradication, and diagnostics. We also seek solutions to managing those pests that are already here, both endemic and exotic, using biological control. This involves parasitoid release programmes, biopesticides, impact studies, understanding pest biology and ecology, and research into endophytic grasses and cereals with a range of insects including black beetle, Argentine stem weevil, clover root weevil, porina and grass grub.
Genetic merit of our feed base is a primary driver in the profitability, production and environmental footprint of New Zealand’s pastoral systems. In developing high merit forage grass, legume and herb cultivars tailored for pastoral systems, our team’s aim is to optimise plant breeding systems and maximise rates of genetic gain.
The Germplasm Development team is identifying the genetic and physiological processes that limit or promote plant growth, and developing, characterizing and curating essential forage germplasm resources.
The Plant-Fungal Interactions team uses mycology, fungal molecular biology and supporting plant and animal sciences to focus on understanding and developing opportunities from the ecology of pasture-based fungi, particularly the fungal endophytes of grasses.
The Soil Biology team utilises soil biological resources involved in soil functioning, host-plant relationships and that act as biopesticides and biofertilisers to foster management practices and tools that can make a significant positive contribution to the environmental and economic wellbeing of pastoral agriculture.
The Knowledge & Analytics group works very closely with researchers in meeting their knowledge and information resources needs. It also collaborates with internal and external scientists in providing data analysis solutions. The group is made up of two diverse teams – Library & Knowledge Services (Knowledge) and Bioinformatics & Statistics (Analytics).