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Sheep reproduction and breeding
Studies examining all-year-round lambing, managing multiples, hogget breeding, and fetal programming aim to increase lifetime reproduction per ewe. We have expertise at both fundamental and applied levels.
Improving the nutrition of pregnant and lactating ewes can ensure higher lamb growth rates and survival to weaning. This is based on pasture-feeding systems, but we have researched alternative forages such as mixed herb and rye grass pastures grazed by pregnant and lactating ewes and finishing lambs.
Sheep health and management
Improving sheep health improves production.Our veterinarian sheep experts in this area collaborate with authorities in parasitology, pathology, microbiology and epidemiology. Research projects include investigation into infectious diseases (especially Brucella, Leptospira and Johne’s disease), control of internal parasites, reproductive loss, and genetic diseases.
Sheep growth and production
Improving live weight gains in lambs to achieve maximum carcass weight while ensuring carcass and meat traits and meat-eating quality are not compromised. We have researched lamb live-weight gains, carcass and meat quality on different forages. We have a fully equipped meat laboratory and consumer taste panels.
Our expertise is in breeding and genetics to improve the profitability of sheep-production systems. Recent studies have focused on defining breeding objectives, calculating economic values using farm models, examining the contribution of the major histocompatibility complex to disease resistance, and identification of mutations associated with inherited diseases.
Sheep dairying is an exciting new dairy industry for Aotearoa/New Zealand. We are undertaking research into manufacturing technologies. and new foods, which includes research into sheep dairy genetics, breeding, disease mitigation and environmental performance.
Sheep behaviour and welfare
Major areas investigated include pain and its alleviation in lambs and sheep, perinatal ewe and lamb behaviour, ewe temperament and behaviour, and stress caused by veterinary procedures.
Research in meat science and technology is focussed upon production and processing factors that influence the textural and flavour properties of meat, refrigeration and packaging systems and on the identification and extraction of bioactive components from meat. Research is also carried out on further processed meat products and pet foods.
These research programmes cover the beef, pork and sheep meat sectors.
Find programmes with a research element, including the PhD.
- Bachelor of Science with Honours (Animal Science)
- Master of Science (Animal Science)
- Master of Veterinary Medicine
- Master of Veterinary Science
- Master of Veterinary Studies
- Master of Veterinary Studies (Epidemiology)
- Master of Veterinary Studies (Veterinary Public Health)
Search for an expert
Search our staff database for an expert or area of expertise.
All-year lamb production
Lamb production in New Zealand is seasonal, with most ewes lambing from August to October. But ewes have the potential to lamb out of the traditional season, potentially three times within two years. More frequent lamb production has the potential to increase farmer returns. Our studies identify management techniques to maximise ewe-breeding performance outside the normal period. Management guidelines have been developed for farmers.
Developing a new way of measuring animal pain
A new device designed by engineers and veterinarians at Massey University seeks to change the way we understand and manage animal pain, starting with sheep. The research team worked with Massey’s engineering expertise to develop a device which is better for animal and researcher. It transmits data via wifi and is lighter and more comfortable for the animal.
Early lamb weaning studies
New research from Massey University suggests that lambs can be successfully weaned lighter and earlier, with benefits for the mother as well. The research shown lambs of ewes feeding on a legume-based diet can be successfully weaned at approximately 50 days old, or seven weeks, when they are as light as 16kg. Under the correct conditions, the early weaning allows the lambs to grow faster and the ewes to regain more body condition before the next breeding season.
Lamb docking device wins design award
Massey University industrial design graduate Nicole Austin’s re-modelled lamb docking or tailing iron won the top prize in the New Zealand section of the 2017 James Dyson Award. Ms Austin’s design, called Moray, helps eliminate repetitive strain injury for farmers when using traditional tools during the seasonal process of removing lambs’ tails – known as docking. The body of the device, which updates equipment unchanged in design for more than 40 years, is made from reinforced nylon and ergonomically designed with a specialized handle to make the docking process easier on the farmers hands.
Longevity and wastage in New Zealand commercial ewe flocks
Approximately 8% of our 20 million commercial ewes are lost every year to on-farm mortality. A study is underway to establish the extent and timing of ewe wastage in commercial New Zealand ewe flocks. It is also looking to identify phenotypic factors associated with reduced productive longevity and increased ewe wastage.
Ranking genetic merit of a new breed of milking sheep
Massey geneticist Professor Nicolas Lopez-Villalobos worked with milking sheep farmer Miles King to develop a genetic merit ranking for a new breed of sheep.
Mr King’s DairyMeade breed was the first specialist milking sheep breed to be developed in New Zealand. He built up the flock over 20 years, with every animal on the property being documented. Professor Lopez-Villalobos worked with Mr King to introduce genetic analysis methods, so that all animals are ranked on their genetic merit over many generations. King’s flock is now recognised as purebred DairyMeade.
Animal Genetic Services
Massey University’s Equine Parentage and Animal Genetics Services Centre offers the most comprehensive range of DNA-based genetic testing for animals in New Zealand.
Farm Services Clinic
Massey University’s Farm Services Clinic provides on-farm treatment for all farm animals as well as in-clinic consultations as required. We have a large animal hospital in Palmerston North providing ongoing care as well as advanced diagnostic imaging, intensive care and surgery for our patients.
Working with industry and research partners, Massey Farms run research and trials in areas of significance to science, the industry and consumer. There are eight farms as part of the group, including conventional and organic dairy units, sheep, beef and deer breeding units and a mixed enterprise/grazing/cropping unit over 2000 hectares.
Massey works closely with industry across our areas of expertise, partnering on funding research and equipment to produce knowledge that is relevant and useful to industry and to progress scientific work. Key partners in our sheep research are: