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 sheep-based biomedical, basic and applied research.

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, image intensifier (X-ray), doppler ultrasound & tissue collection facilities.
  • 120 pen feedlot and group pens.
  • 50 hectares of sheep pasture with scope for more as required.
  • Extended synchronised breeding with lambs born every 2 weeks from mid-May to mid-November.
  • Access to cattle dairy farming operations for research.
  • High speed fibre broadband internet within University of Auckland’s secure network and access to on-line IT resources.
  • Dedicated utility vehicle and trailer for sheep transport.

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. In 2009 Mark was awarded the National Animal Ethics Committee 3Rs award for animal welfare improvements for sheep-based biomedical research at the Ngapouri facility.

Facility and Livestock manager Gregg Pardoe has outstanding farming and animal husbandry skills and is a former holder of the prestigious Nuffield Scholarship.

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.
  • Sheep welfare, health and ethics in animal research.

Core biomedical research 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 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).
  • Allows pasture-based housing and study with fully equipped laboratory facilities or applied study all in the one location.
  • Less need to transport animals to urban facilities therefore lessening animal welfare compromise.
  • Access to superior Pāmu (Landcorp) sheep genetics.
  • Academic and research resources of NZ’s highest ranked University.
  • Local specialist veterinary consultation for sheep breeding and health management planning.
  • 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.
  • Wetland, freshwater, geothermal, geological and feral pest animal potential for research activity nearby.
  • Collaborations with farm animal research specialists at Massey University and AgResearch

Contact the Farm team on