These research themes underpin a range of investigations into the animal response to a changing nutrient supply, and a changing climatic environment.

Metabolism and physiological adaptation

This theme centres on the animal response to a changing nutrient supply and environmental conditions, and includes investigations into:

  • physiological changes to seasonal forage supply and quantification of responses to changes in bioavailable nutrients
  • aspects of gastro-intestinal function, including rumen metabolism, gut microbiology, digestion and absorption, and immunocompetence
  • behavioural and physiological adaptations to heat in cattle (feedlot and dairy), and koalas
  • development of non-invasive techniques to measure body composition, core temperature, and the application of RFID technology
  • maternal nutrition and programming for future equine athletic performance, especially glucose/insulin metabolism
  • development of assisted breeding technologies, in particular semen collection and semen preservation, especially in relation to DNA fragmentation
  • the role of phosphorus, calcium and vitamins D and K on bone metabolism (cattle, horses and poultry)
  • metabolism of therapeutic drugs (horses) and feed contaminants (poultry)
  • development of large animal models (pigs) of human disease.

Sustainable animal production systems

The demand for animal products continues to grow. Our challenge is to meet this demand within the context of increased expectations of animal welfare, a decreasing resource base and a changing climatic environment, and includes investigations into:

  • grazing systems in northern Australia, including supplement strategies for livestock on tropical pastures, and the effect of phosphorus on growth and reproduction in cattle
  • rumen function, cell wall digestion and microbial protein supply, as influenced by the rumen ecology and implications for methane mitigation
  • application of enzymes, probiotics (sheep, calves and poultry), and mycotoxin binders to improve grain utilisation and bird performance
  • increasing the feed base by using Leucaena, algae and novel feed sources
  • improved reproductive efficiency through determination of the role of the caterpillar in equine abortion and the hormonal control of reproduction in the early postnatal period
  • delineation of metabolic diseases of pregnant mares and laying hens
  • development of strategies for use of different housing systems, including free range, for poultry
  • management of the impact of invasive feral species (pigs, goats, dogs, mice, deer, cats and camels) on sustainable production systems, including cropping systems
  • animal production systems in developing countries: cow-calf and fattening systems for village cattle in Indonesia and Myanmar.

Conservation biology and management

This theme concentrates on the delivery of resilient ecosystems with self-sustaining populations of fauna, and includes investigations into:

  • ecology behaviour of native and introduced wildlife, including changing Australian land managers’ perspectives on wildlife utilisation and game management
  • behaviour and welfare of captive wildlife (monkeys and felids) in the context of conservation and environmental enrichment
  • ecology, captive breeding and release of endangered species
  • habitat restoration studies and ecotourism
  • development of game management strategies for the Australian environment
  • reproductive physiology and management of koalas, wombats and echidnas
  • genetic capture technology in the conservation of the koala in South-East Queensland
  • incidence, management and transmission of chlamydiosis in koalas.

Research outcomes and impact

Significant outcomes of our research include:

  • practical measures to alleviate heat stress in beef and dairy cattle, and in sea transport of animals
  • international adoption of a heat load index for feedlot cattle
  • sustainable cattle production systems in northern Australia, Asia and the Pacific
  • increased understanding of metabolism, gene expression and metabolomics as they apply to our animal models of growth and physiological adaption to nutritional and environmental stress
  • increased understanding of rumen function and the broader gastro-intestinal microbiology with respect to nutrition of animals, methane mitigation and gut microbiota
  • amino acid digestibility values becoming the basis of amino acid feed formulation for poultry globally
  • strategic applications for feed enzyme combinations to poultry diets
  • definition of both the aetiology and pathogenesis of EAFL, a major cause of equine abortion
  • management and reproductive strategies to ensure the survival of endangered species
  • new ecotourism approaches to free-roaming and captive wildlife.