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Sheep, beef & deer sessions

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Stream 1 - Monday 6 April

Small ruminants are adaptable to meet global needs for food security in a range of integrated agricultural systems; but production efficiency is inadequate to meet global food security needs. Genetic improvement is needed to redress this failure, but steps must first taken by individual producers or keepers to keep animals alive and productive by sustainable husbandry and development of pragmatic, problem-focused approaches to diagnosis and management of infectious diseases..

Although liver fluke (Fasciola hepatica) is considered a second tier parasite it can have considerable impact of farm management practices and production in farmed livestock. Climate change modelling favouring the habitat of the intermediate snail along with increased diagnosis of parasite resistance to anthelmintics is likely to see an increase of the impact of this parasite. This study of dairy herds on the West Coast of the South Island investigates the prevalence of infection, change in infection rate over the non-lactating period and dynamics of infection during a seasonal lactation. Farm location has a significant influence on the severity of liver fluke infection and factors influencing this will be discussed. Data is being analysed to determine the impact of liver fluke infection on milk production parameters.

Farmers are driven to increase the total weight of lamb available for sale per ewe to improve productivity and one means of doing this is through increased lambing percentages. Higher lambing percentages however are associated with a greater proportion of triplet lambs. Triplet ewes and their lambs are compromised and have specific management needs. This presentation identifies current optimal management strategies based on research and identifies areas needing further investigation.

Better iterative planned animal health management is needed to improve small ruminant production efficiency. This involves: measuring performance against benchmarks; identifying constraints; instigating remedies; evaluating responses; and monitoring efficacy against new targets. The main components of an animal health programme are effective biosecurity, good nutrition, protection from infectious pathogens, and endemic disease management. The impact of planned animal health management is strengthened by applied research.

Body condition scoring subjectively assess the degree of fatness or condition. There are positive relationships for most production measures and farmers are increasingly aware of these. However uptake of the tool is poor due to it being perceived as labour intensive. This presentation discusses the advantages of body condition scoring and approaches being developed to allow live weight to be used as an accurate predictor of body condition score.

Stream 1 - Tuesday 7 April

Hill sheep farming is important in the UK, providing breeding females for lowland systems, and contributing to meat production. We investigated genetic selection of the Scottish Blackface breed and introduction of the prolific Lleyn breed as potential solutions to maintain the viability and sustainability hill farming. Lleyn ewes had comparable litter sizes to improved Scottish Blackface ewes, but produced heavier lambs at lambing. This suggests adaptation to the harsh environment.

Red deer are a seasonal species responding strongly to day length.this governs the breeding season and also modifies feed intake. These features have a significant influence on the fit of red deer to different geoclimatic regions. Matching the feed supply with animal demand remains the key tenet in the success of low-cost forage systems. This paper describes the latest genetic and animal nutrition research that this further developing red deer to fit a wider range of geoclimatic zones.

Velvet antler is a product known for ot medicinal benefits. These are derived from the many natural hormones and nutritional compounds in the harvested product. Development of new products and the extension of new genetic selection programmes have coupled with strong animal welfare research and animal nutrition practices to expand this traditional industry into 21st century markets. This paper describes the growth of the industry, building on a facts based platform of health and medicinal benefits, animal welfare research, genetics and nutrition, and food safety and traceability practices.

Rather than asking if targeted selective treatments (TSTs) work, should we be asking if our current control strategies do? There is good evidence that TSTs do slow the development of resistance. However, the implementation of any TST regime requires additional inputs in the form of either time, labour or capital expenditure that has to be balanced against the anticipated benefits.

Refugia management involves administering anthelmintics to ensure that only a small proportion of the parasite population is exposed to the drug; thereby reducing the emergence and spread of resistance mutations. A major challenge is to decide which animals to treat, or leave untreated. We have evaluated conjunctival mucous membrane colour (FAMACHA scores) of peri-urban goats in Malawi as an index for targeted selective treatment, and means of engagement with smallholders.

Reduced productive longevity and increased wastage of commercial ewes poses a significant cost to both New Zealand farmers and the wider sheep industry. However, there was a lack of research and data related to ewe wastage (the combination of premature culling and on-farm mortality) in New Zealand sheep flocks. This presentation will outline key results of a long-term research project undertaken by researchers at Massey University investigating this issue.

Red deer farming in New Zealand began in the 1970's. A pioneering spirit, coupled with a talented research team propelled the industry into mainstream farming. As the industry has grown, the transfer of knowledge to new entrants has been a key target to improve profitability and sustainability while ensuring continual improvement in best practice. This paper describes the journey through the technology transfer process. The current state of the industry and progress over its history are linked to the succession of adoption and practice change programmes.

This research investigated the pharmacology of articaine hydrochloride for antler removal in deer and a novel solution for post operative pain and wound management after the antler removal in deer. A ring block of 4% articaine at 1ml/cm around the pedicle provided effective analgesia for velvet antler removal in deer. The post operative pain and wound could be managed by novel collagen patch containing local anaesthetics. A proper pharmacokinetic study is required after application of these patches especially to know the systemic absorption.

Selection of animals that are either resistant or resilient to gastro-intestinal nematodes is a debated option for sustainable parasite control strategies. Resistance results in lower contamination but these animals seem to lose the battle of productivity. Here we report on a farmlet study with these lines to determine if the epidemiological advantage of resistance outweighs the apparent trade-off with performance. So while the battle may be lost, can they win the war?

Stream 1 - Wednesday 8 April

The presentation will investigate the unique reproductive physiology of red deer in relation to their origins within cold-temperate northern countries, and how that impacts upon reproductive performance in more equable climates encountered in New Zealand. It will also address how the recent intensive husbandry of red deer on New Zealand pastoral farms intersects with their inherent adaptations for survival within extensive rangelands and forests.

The investigation of possible associations between the resistance phenotype and polymorphisms in candidate genes was successful in identifying mutations conferring benzimidazole resistance; but has yet to unequivocally identify loci responsible for resistance to other drug classes. We have adopted alternative genetic crossing approaches to identify resistance loci, using Haemonchus contortus as our model gastrointestinal nematode, exploiting the availability of a high quality genome assembly and transcriptome.

This presentation is a high level overview of Regenerative Agriculture and how these principles have been applied on farm over the past 3 years. This article presents an alternative to the current conventional agricultural paradigm and offers more ecologically friendly solution for future farming. The soil is presented as a living ecosystem which has been degraded but can be restored by working in sync with natural ecological cycles and biomimicry. The 5 principles of RA are outlined and briefly discussed. Through Regenerative Agriculture improvements can be achieved in terms of water quality and mineral cycles, food nutrient density, animal health and by inference, human health. Advantages for farmers include greater profitability and improved social licence to operate through better environmental stewardship including carbon sequestration which aids in climate change mitigation.

Deer Industry NZ has been implementing a programme to help every deer farm have an environment plan. The programme brings small groups of 8-10 farmers together to meet regularly. They complete their farm environment plan over the course of 6-12 months. This involves visiting each other’s farms, building awareness and trust, using a mix of peer to peer learning and support, and a skilled facilitator. Most deer farms also run cattle and or sheep in addition to their deer, and the need for an active environment plan across their whole business is a common need. As trust builds a wide range of discussions including on welfare, animal health and wintering become possible.

There have been dramatic changes in the global distribution of fluke parasites and severity of disease. As climate and management continue to change, so will their epidemiology. In this scenario, fluke control depends on the correct use of diagnostic tests, considering their sensitivity and specificity to detect different stages of infection at different levels of prevalence. Genomic resources and molecular methods are needed to understand the parasites’ population genetics.

The nature of advisory relationships with rural stakeholders has evolved in recent decades. Successful engagement with clientele to add value to their business depends on how well you understand a client’s holistic situation: their goals, opportunities, challenges, capabilities and fears. It is a consultative process. Uncovering these insights is a means to identify and offer the best solutions.

Rangitaiki Station is an 8300ha sheep beef and deer property on the Central Plateau of the North Island. The property runs 7500 commercial breeding hinds and finishes over 5500 deer for the venison market every year. We are the largest commercial deer farm in NZ and we are driven by being innovative, productive and profitable. Running an operation of this size successfully provides challenges with logistics, animal health and management, and large teams. Ensuring our system is sustainable with our people, environment, and the land asset we manage is key to protecting any risks and challenges we will face moving forward.

This presentation will demonstrate where theoretical knowledge and practical implementation meets. It will cover the day to day animal health considerations from a deer and sheep farm including easy, difficult and impossible things to do with management, menace and mishaps.

Selection of animals that are either resistant or resilient to gastro-intestinal nematodes is a debated option for sustainable parasite control strategies. Resistance results in lower contamination but these animals seem to lose the battle of productivity. Here we report on a farmlet study with these lines to determine if the epidemiological advantage of resistance outweighs the apparent trade-off with performance. So while the battle may be lost, can they win the war?