Animal Science

agresearch groups animal science banner main 2
Our scientists find ways to improve the nutrition, health and welfare of livestock for efficient and sustainable animal production. With expertise in the parasitic and infectious diseases of pastoral livestock, we understand the necessary processes behind healthy productive and efficient ruminant livestock.

agresearch animal science secondary beef cattle trees5

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, genome editing, 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 and we have access to NZ’s only EPA-approved outdoor containment unit for genetically modified livestock.

Teams within this group
  • Animal Nutrition & Physiology
  • Animal Health
  • Rumen Microbiology
  • Animal Genomics
  • GenomNZ
  • Animal Reproduction
  • Animal Welfare

Our Team

Dr. Ian Sutherland
Dr. Ian Sutherland

Science Group Leader
Animal Science

Email Ian

Dr. Sue McCoard
Dr. Sue McCoard

Science Impact Leader
Animal Science

Email Sue

Dr. Muriel Dufour
Dr. Muriel Dufour

Science Team Leader

Email Muriel

Dr. Sara Edwards
Dr. Sara Edwards

Science Team Leader

Email Sara

Dr. David Pacheco
Dr. David Pacheco

Science Team Leader
Animal Nutrition & Physiology

Email David

Dr. Richard Scott
Dr. Richard Scott

Science Team Leader
Animal Health

Email Richard

Dr. Jim Webster
Dr. Jim Webster

Science Team Leader
Animal Welfare

Email Jim


Studying mood and emotion in livestock

Featuring Dr. Gosia Zobel & Dr. Jim Webster

New research exploring the moods and personalities of farm animals is being seen as an opportunity to better understand and enhance their welfare.
The research looks at how animals respond in new and different situations. It is the latest work by AgResearch’s Animal Welfare Team helping to expand the knowledge of livestock behaviour, at a time of growing consumer demand for strong welfare standards.

Strategic winter grazing

Featuring Dr Seth Laurenson & colleagues

With farmers always on the lookout out for simple, cheap methods to improve their farm systems, AgResearch and partner DairyNZ undertook practical research to provide just that. This strategic winter grazing research has developed low–cost approaches for farmers to better manage their land in winter conditions. Our scientists say the pick-up from farmers has been amongst the highest we have seen here at AgResearch – which tells us it’s making a real difference. Here the team talk about how they went about it, the methods, and what the areas of benefit are for the farmers.

Sharon the mutant sheep

Featuring Dr Jeff Plowman

Sharon the Felting Lustre mutant sheep has become somewhat of a celebrity since the media spotlight came on in her in early 2017. She was even featured on the BBC!
This rare kind of sheep has straight wool instead of the usual crimped wool, and presents opportunities for our scientists to learn more about the wool structure and how it might lead to new wool products, as well as what it can tell us about human hair.
In this video, AgResearch scientist Jeff Plowman – who has researched these mutant sheep - talks about Sharon and how she is helping add to our understanding.

Lasers from above to 'zap' weeds

Featuring Dr. Kioumars Ghamkhar

Drone-mounted lasers could be used to zap weeds that are posing a billion-dollar problem for New Zealand agriculture.
AgResearch – with partners the Universities of Auckland and Michigan and NZ-based technology firm Redfern Solutions Limited - was awarded just under $1 million in 2017 from the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment’s Endeavour Fund to look into how to “map and zap” the many weeds plaguing productive land.

Mātai Ahuwhenua

Featuring Pakihiroa Farms Ltd

What aspects of Māoridom are our partners taking into consideration when farming? Hilton Collier of Pakihiroa Farms, owned by Ngati Porou, talks about their priorities in farming and how decisions are made based on five pou. AgResearch Māori Agribusiness Sector Manager, Chris Koroheke, discusses what working in Māoridom involves.