Current research projects | Beef + Lamb New Zealand

Current research projects

Research projects are prioritised and evaluated for relevance to the sector based on priorities derived from various sources including the UMR surveys, farmer councils and the farmer research advisory group (FRAG) ensuring alignment with the B+LNZ Strategy. Read about our current research projects.

image of hill country

Hill Country Futures is a $8.1m programme focused on future proofing the profitability, sustainability and wellbeing of New Zealand’s hill country farmers, their farm systems, the environment and rural communities. The programme is a partnership between B+LNZ, MBIE, PGG Wrightson Seeds and Seed Force and involves multi-disciplinary researchers and farmers from across New Zealand.

The programme has four key focus areas:

  1. A ‘pathways’ framework to support a resilient hill country future.
  2. Landscape classification tools.
  3. Biodiversity in forage landscapes.
  4. Communities to market.

For more on this programme please visit our website https://www.hillcountryfutures.co.nz/

Timeline and investment

This is a five-year project due for completion at end 2022. B+LNZ investment is $3.5m for the duration of the study.

B+LNZ point of contact: Mhairi Sutherland and Suzanne Keeling.

iimage of sheep and cattle

The Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium (PGgRc) exists to provide knowledge and tools for New Zealand farmers, so they can mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector. The PGgRc is funded by eight New Zealand agricultural sector partners and works in collaboration with the New Zealand Government.

To find out more about the PGgRc and the projects they invest in visit the website: https://www.pggrc.co.nz/

B+LNZ point of contact: Mark Aspin.

image of cow eating

New Zealand scientists are conducting a ground-breaking research programme to explore the benefits of eating pasture-raised beef and lamb.

This study is led by Meat Industry Association Innovation Ltd (MIA Innovation) and jointly funded by Beef + Lamb New Zealand Ltd (B+LNZ), the High Value Nutrition National Science Challenge and New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) Research Partnership Fund.

For all the details on this project visit the website: https://www.beeflambnz.co.nz/pasture-raised

Timeline and investment

This is a three-year project due for completion in November 2022. B+LNZ investment is $375,500 for the duration of the study.

B+LNZ point of contact: Suzanne Keeling.

sheep in the yards

This project aims to outline the social and psychological impacts of Facial Eczema (FE) on livestock farmers, their families, and local communities.

Background

Facial eczema (FE) constitutes a serious threat to New Zealand’s livestock industry. In addition to animal health implications and significant economic losses, farmer wellbeing can be severely affected by FE outbreaks.

While well-recognised anecdotally and in the international scientific literature, it remains difficult to determine the range of social and psychological impacts of animal disease on farmers, their families, and local communities. This is particularly challenging for New Zealand livestock farmers, given that FE globally poses the biggest problem in New Zealand. The challenge is further compounded by the fact that FE has become common in some regions, while only occurring sporadically or not at all in others. However, the situation is evolving due to global climate change, with FE likely to become more severe issue throughout the country. The social and psychological impacts on New Zealand farmers are likely to evolve as well. 

Benefit to farmers/industry

This pilot study will deliver benefits to B+LNZ and New Zealand’s livestock sector by beginning to systematically research the social and psychological impacts of FE. Through in-depth interviews with farmers and rural professionals, this study will identify main impacts on farmers with varying levels of FE occurrence, current management strategies, and remaining gaps in research and practice change efforts. 

Timeline and investment

This project is a 6-month pilot study due for completion October 2022. 

B+LNZ investment into this project is $80,760.

Partners: This project is led by AgResearch and funded by B+LNZ

Lead Scientists: Martin Espig and Suzanne Vallance.

B+LNZ point of contact: Cara Brosnahan.

mage of grass in hands

The aim of this project is to describe the species of fungi identified in NZ in association with Facial Eczema.

Background

Pseudopithomyces chartarum (formerly known as Pithomyces chartarum) is currently believed to be the sole causal agent of facial eczema (FE) in ruminants.

Preliminary analyses of 84 suspected Pse. chartarum isolates from the environment have been carried out by AgResearch and Manaaki Whenua. This analysis indicates that the New Zealand isolates of Pse. chartarum separate into three major groups. This suggests that Pse. chartarum group may contain more than one species. This project will build on the preliminary work to provide the first details of the Pse. chartarum groups in New Zealand.

Farmers provided grass samples from around NZ to grow additional fungal isolates directly linked to farming environments. These fungal isolates will be analysed to compare genetic relatedness of isolates from facial eczema affected farms with environmental isolates and those from the same genus or closely related species. Representative isolates from each group will have their genetic code further analysed in depth, their form and structure described, and any new species will be named.

Genetic analyses will help provide insights into potential differences between species and may provide clues into their lifestyles, such as saprophytic (living on dead matter) vs biotrophic (living on another living organism) potential. This project will provide fundamental knowledge needed to understand how best to assist New Zealand farmers in managing the risk of FE.

Genetic analyses will help provide insights into potential differences between species and may provide clues into their lifestyles, such as saprophytic (living on dead matter) vs biotrophic (living within another living organism such as a plant) potential. This project will provide fundamental knowledge needed to understand how best to assist New Zealand farmers in managing the risk of FE.

Benefit to farmers/industry

Knowing that there are several Pseudopithomyces species in pasture enables accurate and impactful management tools and solutions for FE.

Timeline and investment

This project is a 12-month pilot study due for completion February 2023.

B+LNZ investment into this project is $186,500.

Partners

This project is led by AgResearch and Manaaki Whenua, Landcare Research and funded by B+LNZ

Lead Scientists: Christine Voisey and Bevan Weir.

B+LNZ point of contact: Cara Brosnahan.

sheep on hill country

This project will evaluate a range of catch crop species and establishment techniques to reduce sediment and surface flow losses following the winter grazing of forage crops.  Trials will be carried out on hill country in the Hawkes Bay and Horizons regions, but the systems developed will provide spill-over benefits to all farming regions and terrains nationally.  

This project will provide a detailed understanding of the value of catch-crops, both economically and environmentally, by sediment control and reducing overland nutrient losses entering waterways. The project will highlight relevant establishment techniques, grazing systems, and what catch crops work best in which environments. 

Background

Typically, winter forage crops are grazed off by livestock then the paddocks are left to fallow until spring. Catch crop refers to a short-term crop that is established before, during or after a winter crop is first grazed off and before the next main crop or new pasture is established. A catch crop would cover the whole area grazed after each break and requires repeated sowings as new ground is progressively grazed off. 

Catch crops are a practical solution to reduce sediment losses by reducing the amount of bare ground, thereby reducing runoff and sediment loss. Catch crops physically hold the soil, trap any surface flow and help with soil aeration and structure, thus reducing soil movement, sediment and nutrient loss. As sediment acts as a vector for phosphate, catch-crops will also reduce phosphate losses.  

For more information about this project, updates and results visit: https://www.catchcrop.nz/

Benefit for farmers

This project will provide robust information on the management and benefits of catch-crops that will be applicable across all New Zealand and terrains. Workshops and extension material will be produced in the final year of the project.

Timeline and investment

Initially this was a three-year project due for completion in June 2021. However, due to a very dry winter in the middle of this project, there was not enough sediment run off to reliably conclude results so this project will run for one more year and now be due for completion in June 2022. This will provide two years of sediment mitigation data under different conditions and provide a more substantive analysis of the mitigation impacts of catch crops. 

The project will be centered on sites in the Hawkes Bay Regional Council and Horizons catchments with more detailed measurements around sediment losses and productivity benefits. The first and second year are focused on data collection and proof of concept. The third and final year will be more focused on extension with some final trial work as needed. B+LNZ investment into this project is $37,000 over the duration of the project.

Partners

This is a Ministry for Primary Industries Sustainable Farming Fund project led by AgFirst (Lochie MacGillivray) and co-funded by MPI, Hawkes Bay Regional Council, Horizons Regional Council, Ravensdown Ltd, B+LNZ, Foundation for Arable Research and in-kind support from Farmland Ltd, Dairy NZ and Catch Crop Sediment Mitigation Group.

Lead Scientist: Brendon Malcolm (Plant and Food Research).

Farmers involved: Mark Watson, Philp Holt, Ben Harker, Damien Reynolds, Robbie Hill, Andrew Russell, Will Morrison and Brownrigg Agriculture.

B+LNZ point of contact: Mark Harris and Cara Brosnahan.

sheep up close

This project aims to develop a laboratory-based test to predict the tolerance of pastoral livestock to sporidesmin A, the toxin attributed to facial eczema.

Background

Facial Eczema (FE), is a disease of concern in New Zealand which is known to affect sheep, cattle, alpacas, goats, deer and llama.

FE has been reported in New Zealand for over 100 years and is attributed to the ingestion of a toxin (sporidesmin A) produced by strains of the fungus Pseudopithomyces chartarum which sits in the litter at the base of some pasture swords.

Breeding for increased tolerance to FE is the main tool used in New Zealand by breeders and commercial farmers in defense of this disease. The current test for determining FE tolerance is based on in-vivo methods (inside the animal). This test is unsustainable, and an alternative is needed to be able to increase the number of animals tested, reduce the impacts on animal welfare and improve farmer social license, both nationally and internationally. New science approaches and advances in technology provide an opportunity to find new solutions to test for FE tolerance that are carried out with limited impacts on the animal.

Benefit to farmers/industry

The value a test like this will add to farmers and the industry is twofold. It will provide a more acceptable way to determine if animals have tolerance to FE and it will allow screening of a larger number of animals than is currently possible, including females, allowing more efficient selection of FE tolerant animals to support breeding programmes.

Timeline and investment

This project will be carried out in four phases with assessment after each phase to ensure results are robust enough to continue. The four phases are estimated to take three years in total.

Phase 1 has now been completed (April 2021) and determined that when blood samples were exposed to sporidesmin A several potential markers were identified that could help identify animals with tolerance to FE. The test will now move into phase 2 which involves looking for these potential markers using samples from animals that are believed to be tolerant or not tolerant to FE.

Continuation of the project into Phase 3-4 will be based on the success of phase 2.  If phase 2 is successful, the project will then progress into developing a cost-effective test (Phase 3), which will then be checked for its suitability by testing a large number of animals (Phase 4). B+LNZ investment into phase 1 – 4 of this project is $483,000.

Partners

This project is led by AgResearch and funded by B+LNZ.

Lead Scientist: Dr Axel Heiser

B+LNZ point of contact: Cara Brosnahan

ewe and lambs

This project has two aims:

1. To demonstrate that both single and twin ewe lambs born to ewe hoggets can be bred as ewe lambs and their lifetime performance is not compromised. 
2. To determine if ewe lambs grown to heavy pre-mating weights achieve a heavier mature weight and any effect on ewe efficiency are discovered. 

Background

Mating ewe lambs is now an accepted practice for over 30% of farmers. Several flocks are achieving 120% of lambs, meaning there are growing proportions of twin-lambs being produced by hoggets. Most farmers do not retain the ewe offspring from these hoggets as they are born later and are smaller than lambs from mixed-age ewes.

While not retaining these ewe offspring leads to a production efficiency gain over the ewe’s lifetime, it does not enable any genetic gain by using a younger ewe flock to be realised.

There is some evidence to suggest that while twin-ewes from hoggets are born smaller, they produce the same weight of lamb weaned as heavier ewes born to mixed-age dams. If this is correct, there is a potential efficiency gain by producing more weight of lamb weaned per unit of maternal weight per lifetime. The lifetime effects of mating the twin-ewe progeny of ewe hoggets at 8-9 months of age remain unknown.

Due to the availability of alternative forages such as red clover, chicory and plantain, some farmers can achieve ewe lamb mating weights in excess of 50kg. Farmer experience suggest these animals may grow to excessive mature weight which reduces their lifetime profitability due to increased feed consumption. If this is correct, there may be an optimal pre-mating growth strategy for ewe lambs that will reduce the negative impact of excessively heavy mature ewes while still achieving high hogget breeding performance.

Benefit for farmers

If farmers can confidently retain ewe offspring of hoggets, they may achieve greater efficiency (more kg of lamb weaned per kg of ewe live weight) and they have the potential to capture additional genetic gain generated by using a younger ewe flock.

This research will also assist farmers in understanding the consequences of excessive ewe lamb growth on lifetime efficiency.

Timeline and investment

This is a five-year project to study the lifetime ewe efficiency and is due for completion in February 2023. B+LNZ investment is $415,000 for the duration of the study.

Partner

This project is led by Massey University and co-funded by B+LNZ and Massey University.

Lead Scientist: Hugh Blair (Massey University).
B+LNZ point of contact: Suzanne Keeling.

sheep in yards

The aim of this project is to assess different methods of parasite management communication with farmers and vets for their usefulness, reach, impact, and associated behaviour change.

Background 

Drench resistance is an increasing issue in New Zealand. Farmers need to have access to the most up to date information so informed decisions can be made for parasite management with the aim of preventing or reversing drench resistance on their farms. To do this, the information needs to be communicated effectively and have the desired impact.  This project was run in 2021 and we received useful information about the education resources and their impacts. We are repeating this survey to follow up with participants of the 2021 study, to increase the pool of participants by trialling different ways to engage and to see if the trends observed in 2021 are repeatable in 2022.

A variety of communication channels are used to provide information to farmers:  

  • A podcast with farmers at various stages of their drench resistance journey.  
  • An animated video on understanding parasites and anthelmintic resistance.   
  • Wormwise drench poster (PDF, 1.9MB).  
  • Wormwise workshops.
  • Wormwise e-learning module.  


Each of these channels of communication will be evaluated for reach and impact on farmer knowledge, attitude, skills, aspirations and behaviour change. They will be benchmarked against other B+LNZ communication messages. Additionally, the success of each communication method will be compared to each other.  

This year we are also asking farmers what their biggest challenge is when it comes to managing parasites on their farm and what B+LNZ can be doing to support farmers managing livestock parasites. This information will be used to inform the research in the parasite management space. 
The project will use:

  • analytics to assess the reach of the material 
  • models to predict the impact of this parasite campaign 
  • online surveys taken by participants immediately after viewing the material 
  • online surveys taken by participants approximately 2-3 months later to assess if learnings from these communication methods was adopted .

Benefit to farmers/industry

The benefits for farmers of this project are: 

  • Parasite management communicated in new and different ways with the aim of reaching a large audience.  
  • Communication methods evaluated so future messages can get to farmers in the most useful way to support practice change on farm and invest wisely in communication.

Timeline and investment 

This is a 6-month project due for completion in October 2022.

B+LNZ investment is $40,000 over the duration of the project.

Partners: This project is led by Scarlatti and funded by B+LNZ.  
B+LNZ point of contact: Cara Brosnahan.

farmers in yard

The aim of this project is to inform: 

  • What influences farmers habits and decision making associated with parasite management.
  • How a farm system operates with reduced drench.

Background

Internal parasites are one of the most important animal health challenges for our sheep and beef farmers. Treatment for parasites has predominantly been through using anthelmintics, or drench. 

Drench resistance is increasing in New Zealand with multiple families of drench failing on more farms. Relying on this as the sole treatment is no longer a robust option. There is a need to reduce or eliminate the reliance of drench on our sheep and cattle farms.

In-depth interviews will be held with up to 15 farmers around New Zealand. Understanding the behavioural drivers and habits of farmers to drench or not and the operational processes of farmers who use minimal or no drench is required. This information will be key to informing the B+LNZ long-term research strategy into parasite management including education and communication, research, and potential regulatory regulations for drench purchase and administration.

Benefit to farmers/industry

This information will be key to informing the B+LNZ long-term research strategy into parasite management including education and communication, research, and potential regulatory regulations for drench purchase and administration.

The stories of how these farmers have reduced drench will be shared to provide other farmers with more on-farm information.

Timeline and investment 

This is a 9-month project due for completion in December 2022.

B+LNZ investment is $92,000 over the duration of the project.

Partners: This project is led by Massey University and funded by B+LNZ.  
Lead Scientist: Anne Riddler.
B+LNZ point of contact: Cara Brosnahan.