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Graduation - October 2013

Mark Barnett graduated at a ceremony at the University of New England, Armidale held in October 2013.

Mark is pictured with his father at the Graduation ceremony.

Graduation - April 2012

Photo L to R: Donnalee Taylor, Gareth Kelly & Rachelle Hergenhan
Photo L to R: Donnalee Taylor, Gareth Kelly & Rachelle Hergenhan


Donnalee Taylor, Gareth Kelly and Rachelle Hergenhan graduated at a ceremony at the University of New England, Armidale held in March 2012.

Donnalee Taylor’s thesis examined Merino sheep sheltering behaviour and investigated the movement of flocks using trained leaders.

Gareth Kelly's thesis examined the investigation into the cost of parasites for a summer rainfall region: Implications for Integrated Parasite Management.

Rachelle Hergenhan's thesis examined Genetic factors affecting lamb survival.

See excerpts below from these three Postgraduate's abstracts presented at  the Sheep CRC 2010 Conference.

Donnalee Taylor - GPS tracking: use of shelter and shade by Merino ewes

D. B. Taylor, A. Schneider, W. Y. Brown, I. R. Price, M. G. Trotter, D. W. Lamb and G. N. Hinch.
Animal Science, Psychology, Precision Agriculture Research Group, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.
DAustralian Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation, Homestead Building, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.


SUMMARY: Information on the spatial distribution of ewes was obtained by deploying GPS collars on sheep on a commercial property on the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales. The aim of this study was to quantify the relationship between local weather, topography and use of shade and shelter by sheep in 2 paddocks of 20 ha. Paddock A was characterised by 3 distinct areas: “exterior shelter” consisting of perimeter shelter belts (3–4 rows of native trees), “lone trees” consisting of individual free-standing trees within the paddock, and “remainder of paddock”. Paddock B contained areas that were categorised as for paddock A, plus an “interior shelter”, a single, internal boomerang-shaped shelter belt. Over 2 lambing seasons (spring 2008 and 2009, 43–51 days), a random sample of 5 ewes from each of the 2 flocks of 200–300 ewes (2–5 years old and shorn 2 weeks prior to commencement of the experiment) were fitted with GPS collars set to log position every 10 min. Four weather stations and 55 temperature loggers were strategically located throughout the paddocks to provide localized hourly measurements of temperature, wind speed and precipitation over the observation periods. Daily temperatures ranged between –6 °C and 27 °C; nights were generally still and frost was common; days were often sunny and windy. Wind speed reached a mean maximum of 49.6 km/h. Strong westerly winds prevailed; northerly and southerly winds were unusual. The average rainfall during the observation period was 760 mm.

As the number of times that sheep were detected in the various paddock categories was similar in each year, data for the 2 years were combined. The percentage of observations in which sheep were within 25 m of each shelter class was determined during 3 key phases of the diurnal behavioural cycle: 19:00–04:00 (night camping); 05:00–11:00 (morning grazing) and 12:00–18:00 (afternoon grazing). During night camping and when an internal shelter belt was provided (Paddock B), sheep spent more time in the vicinity (0–25 m) of the interior shelter belt (56%) than free-standing trees (12%). In Paddock A, which contained only free-standing trees (43%) or perimeter shelter belts (40%), the difference between the times spent in these areas was not significant. During daylight, shade-seeking behaviour indicated an increase in the use of free-standing trees in both paddocks. Interior shelter or free-standing trees were utilised during night camping, which may have occurred because tree canopies reduce heat loss via radiation. During the day, shade reduces radiation load, which may be of more importance to sheep than the wind protection provided by the exterior shelter belts.

These results suggest that sheep prefer to manoeuvre in and around shelter and free-standing trees within a paddock rather than exterior shelter belts along fence lines. The effects of local weather temperature extremes, wind direction, altitude and diurnal movements on daytime and night-time preferences are currently being analysed.

Gareth Kelly - Worm egg count is not associated with greasy fleece weight in sheep phenotypically different for resistance or resilience to gastrointestinal nematodes

G. A. Kelly, L. P. Kahn and S. W. Walkden-Brown, Australian Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation, Homestead Building, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.

SUMMARY: Promoting animals with increased immune response against gastrointestinal nematodes (worms) will have epidemiological benefits but may have deleterious consequences on production (Greer 2008). To investigate the effect of phenotypic resistance and resilience to worms on production characteristics in grazing sheep, a 2-year cross-over experiment was conducted.

On six farms, two mobs (yearling or mature age) of 300 or more Merino ewes were chosen at shearing in 2007. Within each mob, animals were randomly allocated to receive either normal management (challenged, n = 60) or ‘worm-free’ treatment (n = 60) involving suppressive control using combination long-acting anthelmintics. Faecal worm egg count (WEC) was measured individually every 2 months and greasy fleece weight (GFW) was measured at each shearing. Treatments were swapped at shearing in 2008 and continued until shearing 2009. Sheep were placed into quartiles based on either WEC(1/3) (resistance) or GFW (resilience) distributions within their treatment groups when challenged. The effect of resistance (WEC quartile) on challenged and worm-free GFW was analysed using an appropriate general linear model followed by Tukey’s HSD test; the effect of resilience (GFW quartile) was analysed by intra-quartile comparison of GFW under worm-free and normal management.

Rachelle Hergenhan - Sire variation in neonatal lamb behaviours and other  lamb vigour

R. L. Hergenhan, G.N. Hinch and D. M. Ferguson
School of Environmental and Rural Science, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.
CSIRO Livestock Industries FD McMaster Laboratory, Chiswick, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.

SUMMARY: Phenotypic variation in neonatal lamb vigour has been assessed in the Sheep Cooperative Research Centre’s Information Nucleus Flock. Preliminary results indicate that sire breed variation in lamb vigour score exists and that vigour score is favourably correlated with lamb survival to 3 days of age (Brien et al. 2010). To understand this association further, a more detailed assessment of neonatal lamb behaviour, including a novel behaviour test for assessing vigour, was conducted in lambs from two sire breeds.

Thirty-seven twin- and triplet-bearing Merino ewes, pregnant to one of three Merino (M) or three Border Leicester (BL) sires lambed in individual pens. The ASBV for vigour score for each sire was known. Video records from birth to 3 h after birth were used to measure the time taken to stand and suckle for each lamb. A vigour score was also assigned to each lamb based on its behaviour until 3 h after birth. Lambs underwent a behavioural test (6–9 hours post partum) in which they were placed in an arena behind a wire mesh barrier and allowed 90 s to move past the barrier to a model of a ewe where an audio cue of a bleating ewe was played. Movement and overall responsiveness scores were recorded. Data were analysed using SAS PROC GLM and a nested model including the fixed effects, breed, sire nested within breed and litter size were fitted and birth weight was included as a covariate.

Overall score in the behaviour test was the only measure to differ significantly between sire breeds (2.8 ± 0.2 and 2.4 ± 0.2 for BL and M, respectively). Time to suckle and vigour score differed significantly between sires within breed (Fig. 1). Significant sire differences were also found for movement and overall responsiveness scores in the behaviour test (Fig. 1). Litter size had no effect on any behavioural trait. Moderately high correlations were found between vigour score ASBV and time to suckle (0.77) and vigour score (–0.68). Lower correlations were observed for movement and overall score (–0.28) during the behavioural test. This study confirms that there is phenotypic variation in neonatal lamb behaviour and vigour. Furthermore, there appears to be more variation due to sire within breed rather than to sire breed alone. These results also validate the utility of the field-based measure of lamb vigour.