Research farm

Our off-site Research Farm is a unique and versatile facility for the study of sheep nutrition, health and reproductive biology.

Based near Rotorua in the central North Island, the University of Auckland’s Research Farm Laboratory has an international reputation for its facilities and expertise in biomedical and ruminant research.

The Research Farm Laboratory was developed by the Liggins Institute in conjunction with Landcorp Farming, New Zealand's largest corporate farmer. The partnership recognises that research can aid farming success by better understanding the link between maternal nutrition and reproductive biology. The research also seeks to improve animal health and welfare.

The Research Farm has hosted national and international collaborations as a result of the expertise of the staff, its academic and research links, and the excellent on-site facilities. The Research Farm’s Laboratory team were ‘highly commended’ in the 2018 University of Auckland Vice-Chancellor’s Excellence Awards for their commitment to health, safety and wellbeing.

Farm facilities

Facilities at the Farm include:

  • Surgery, composition scanner (DXA), doppler ultrasound & tissue collection facilities.
  • 120 pen feedlot and group pens.
  • 50 hectares of sheep pasture.
  • Cattle pasture by negotiation.
  • Extended sheep breeding season with lambs born every 2-3 weeks from mid-May to mid-November.

Farm expertise

The Farm is staffed by scientists, technical staff, PhD students and visiting researchers. Head scientist, Dr Mark Oliver, has a Masters in ruminant physiology, a biomedical PhD in maternal nutrition and the endocrine regulation of fetal growth (sheep), and over 20 years’ experience in sheep laboratory management and administration.

The Farm team are skilled and experienced in:

  • Ruminant nutrition, feed formulation and testing.
  • Metabolism, growth profiling and composition.
  • Growth factor and stress hormone axes.
  • Disease states, for example facial eczema (liver disease), sepsis and maternal pregnancy and lactation-related metabolic disorders.
  • Pharmaceutical trials.
  • Advanced surgical skills for experimental work.
  • Primary and secondary antibody production.
  • Welfare, health and animal ethics.

Biomedical research carried out at the Farm focuses on the causes and consequences of pregnancy complications and related conditions, such as fetal growth restriction, preterm birth, maternal nutrition and age, maternal obesity and twinning/ multiple pregnancies.

The Farm also conducts agricultural focused research into areas like maternal nutritional and metabolic management, weaning and facial eczema prevention and mitigation.

New developments include collaborations at the University of Auckland to develop in-vitro rumen/bioreactor systems to channel IP development to on-farm applications for clients and collaborators.

Use the Farm

The Farm is well set up for sheep studies by visiting scientists on both a contract and collaborative basis. Studies carried out at the Farm benefit from:

  • Laboratory support in Auckland (molecular, protein, assays, microbiome).
  • Academic and research resources of NZ’s highest ranked University.
  • Local specialist veterinary consultation for sheep breeding and health.
  • Fully automated power back-up; health and safety audited.
  • A helpful landlord with four dairy farms in the local area.
  • Short-term accommodation on site.
  • Secure fibre broadband.

Contact the Farm team on ligginsfarm@auckland.ac.nz