Animal Science

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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.

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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.

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
GenomNZ

Email Muriel

Dr. Sara Edwards
Dr. Sara Edwards

Science Team Leader
Reproduction

Email Sara

Dr. David Pacheco
Dr. David Pacheco

Science Team Leader
Animal Nutrition & Physiology

Email David

Dr. Rosemary Rickman
Dr. Rosemary Rickman

Science Team Leader
Animal Genomics

Email Rosemary Rickman

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

SPOTLIGHT ON SCIENCE

Hogget fertility and what it means for farmers

Featuring Dr. Jenny Juengel

Hoggets are female sheep that have lambs for the first time at one year old, whereas typically on New Zealand sheep farms the female sheep first give birth at two years of age. Often the impediments to hogget lambing are the changes required to farm systems, and inefficiencies in reproduction. AgResearch has studied this area of reproduction to better understand it, and look at ways to improve the efficiency of hogget lambing. Principal scientist Dr Jenny Juengel talks through the issues and potential benefits it can bring sheep farmers, including improved profitability and a reduced environmental footprint.

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.

A new generation ryegrass

Featuring Dr. Greg Bryan

AgResearch, supported by Government and industry partners, is developing a new kind of ryegrass we think could be a gamechanger for agriculture. The genetically modified High Metabolisable Energy ryegrass has been shown in the lab to grow up to 50 per cent faster than conventional ryegrass, to be able to store more energy for better animal growth, to be more resistant to drought, and to produce up to 23 per cent less methane (the largest single contributor to New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions) from livestock. Our principal scientist Dr Greg Bryan talks about the next stage - field testing.
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