Research on Tuapaka Farm

Massey University's research projects on Tuapaka Farm are focused on research around beef cows and assisting farmers mitigate the impact of intensive farming in hill country farms on the environment.

We are investigating nutrient management on hill country farms with a focus on water quality, creating solutions for improving that management.

With its strong capability in soil science, hydrology, precision agriculture, geographical information systems and agricultural management, Massey University is a leader in this area of research. Tuapaka Farm and its hill country topography, steep slopes and fragile soils, is ideal for this work.

Beef research projects

Cow efficiency project

Four groups representing large or small beef cows and high or low milk production potential are being evaluated over their lifetime for various efficiency indicators. The first three progeny have been finished and assessed.

feed requirements

Beef cows were monitored over two consecutive winters to get baseline measures for paddock use. Of the three kilometres the cows walked daily, less than 300 metres was uphill. Despite this, maintenance requirements increased to meet their energy needs.

Beef cow body condition score

We have recently developed a body condition scoring guide for beef cattle, in collaboration with AgFirst Consultancy and Landcorp Farming Ltd. This guide will assist farmers in scoring their breeding cows and making management decisions accordingly.

Wintering system

This project evaluated alternative systems for winter management of growing rising-one-year-old beef cattle on wet soils. Growth rate and welfare of the cattle was compared alongside the soil damage and pasture growth rates. Funded by Beef + Lamb NZ.


Bull beef systems involve rearing 4-day-old bull calves from the dairy industry (usually Holstein Friesian) for slaughter at 12-30 months of age. Many aspects of bull beef farming have been examined at Tuapaka.

Copper deficiency

This research has shown that in bovid ruminants copper is lost during clotting. This loss is variable and thus means that in cattle, the concentration of copper in the blood is best measured using plasma rather than serum.

Sediment and nutrient projects

Hill country cropping

This practice is rapidly developing, despite a lack of science in this area. This study is investigating the impact of hill country cropping on sediment and nutrient loss.

Crash grazing impacts

Wetlands often form in the bottoms of valleys, creating a green oasis for stock. This project created two events to ascertain the effect of crash grazing on sediment and nutrient loss.

Monitoring sediment and nutrients

This project is investigating the effects of pugging damage on nutrient and sediment loss in surface runoff.

Nitrate attenuation

Hill country is unique due to its varied and often fragile soils, steep slopes, seeps and wetlands. This means that the pathways of nitrogen loss are complex. A new study is investigating the role of dissolved organic carbon in the conversion of nitrate to nitrogen gases (denitrification) in hill country.

Cattle feeding location

This study uses GPS collars to compare nutrient and sediment loss when cattle were fed at two different sites. The first was a traditional hay feeding area and the second was on a well-drained soil type.

Sheep research

Mastitis in cull ewes

Cull ewes that had udders of interest were identified to allow retrieval of the udders at commercial slaughter. These udders are to be analysed in due course.


This research compared twin rearing ewes and their lambs that were weaned at 7 weeks of age onto herb/clover (dams on grass)  with those that remained with their dam on either herb/clover or grass until normal weaning age of 12 weeks.

The research team

  • Dr Lucy Burkitt

    Dr Lucy Burkitt

    Senior Research Officer - School of Agriculture and Environment


  • Dr Rene Corner-Thomas

    Dr Rene Corner-Thomas

    Senior Lecturer - School of Agriculture and Environment

    Senior Lecturer - School of Veterinary Science


  • Dr Lydia Cranston

    Dr Lydia Cranston

    Lecturer in Sheep Production Systems - School of Agriculture and Environment

    Lecturer in Sheep Production Systems - School of Veterinary Science


  • Dr Ina Draganova

    Dr Ina Draganova

    Lecturer in Precision Agriculture - School of Agriculture and Environment


  • Associate Professor Rebecca Hickson

    Associate Professor Rebecca Hickson

    Associate Professor in Animal Breeding and Genetics - School of Agriculture and Environment


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