Aerial view of CSIRO Livestock Industries’ FD McMaster Lab, Armidale.

Aerial image of FD McMaster.

Armidale, NSW (FD McMaster Laboratory)

Research at the FD McMaster Laboratory develops tools for breeders of meat and wool sheep and beef cattle to optimise profitability, livestock welfare and on-farm decision support systems, resulting in more efficient animals and better management practices.

  • 27 October 2010

Summary

CSIRO's FD McMaster Laboratory is located on the New England Highway, 16 kilometres south of Armidale. It is situated on prime grazing land in the heart of the New England region of New South Wales.

The laboratory comprises 3000 square metres of high quality office and laboratory accommodation, architecturally designed to enhance its pastoral links.

At 30º south, 151º east, an altitude of 1046 metres and with an average annual rainfall of 866 mm, the climate is temperate, with significant diurnal and seasonal fluctuations in temperature.

We conduct research and provide high quality services for Australia's livestock and allied industries to improve sustainability, productivity and competitiveness.

Facilities

Grazing resources at FD McMaster Laboratory and the nearby Arding field station total over 1 800 ha comprising:

  • 173 hectares of native pasture
  • 290 hectares improved native pasture
  • 1 300 hectares sown pasture.

The laboratory is set up for a wide range of experimental activities with sheep and cattle, particularly those requiring intensive recording and monitoring.

The long-term carrying capacity of land is approximately 15 000 dry sheep equivalents (average 8 DSE/ha) with over 85 per cent of the total grazing capacity currently occupied by sheep. There are extensive and well-maintained facilities for sheep, cattle and aquaculture.

The laboratory has five custom-built calorimeters (respiration chambers) for measuring methane, hydrogen and carbon dioxide emissions from individual sheep. A number of other parameters can also be measured including body mass, feeding, drinking, food access, sleep detection, body core temperature and heart rate.

The laboratory complex includes:

  • a conference centre
  • a large modern library (300 square metres)
  • attractive staff amenities 
  • a well-equipped industrial workshop.

Associated buildings include:

  • state of the art animal house and surgery
  • a carcass analysis facility
  • reproductive technology centre
  • a range of other specialised and general-purpose outbuildings.

Activities

Research conducted at FD McMaster includes:

Advanced reproductive technologies

  • accelerating dissemination of desirable genetics (improved natural and artificial breeding techniques)
  • transforming industries through the creation of novel breeding systems
  • utilising the bovine genome project to maintain reproduction efficiency in modern  livestock systems.

Host resistance to parasites and control of internal parasites

  • improving and extending the effective life of anthelmintic drugs for worm control
  • devising new strategies for controlling parasites.

Animal physiology and welfare

  • improving our understanding of animal physiology and behaviour
  • developing objective measures of animal welfare to underpin ethical livestock production
  • developing new husbandry practices that improve livestock productivity, product quality and consumer confidence.

The laboratory has been endorsed by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) as a Collaborating Centre for Animal Welfare Science and Bioethical Analysis. The OIE Collaborating Centre, which comprises Australian and New Zealand universities, research bodies and the governments of both countries, is aimed at providing international scientific support for animal welfare.

Productivity and product quality

  • increasing profitability in the Australian sheep industry, by developing technologies to produce superior breeding, nutritional and management strategies.

Information systems

  • developing computer modelling, data management and statistical analysis for research and technology transfer related to livestock industries.

Personnel

FD McMaster staff have expertise in:

  • biochemistry
  • functional genomics
  • histology
  • immunology and epidemiology
  • interpretation of biological data
  • molecular genetics
  • nutrition
  • parasitology
  • quantitative genetics
  • ruminant reproduction and physiology.

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