Optimising production efficiency by improving animal health and performance.
In partnership with
A major component of the AFBI Sustainable Sheep Production Research Platform is a research programme to improve production efficiency through enhancing animal health and performance. An additional research area aims to improve environmental sustainability by minimising the impacts of sheep production on the environment. Researchers are developing and evaluating the effects of different management strategies to promote biodiversity and limit the emissions of greenhouse gases.
The livestock team also collaborate closely with food scientists at AFBI to ensure that consumer satisfaction and expectations are not compromised though novel production methods. Studies utilise the AFBI 300+ sheep flock and most work is also evaluated at a number of commercial farms across Northern Ireland, in collaboration with co-research farmers from both lowland and upland production systems. State of the art facilities at AFBI Hillsborough enable studies to quantify greenhouse gas emissions from sheep production systems and quantify the effects of mitigation strategies.
Key research expertise
AFBI’s comprehensive research programme additionally provides the opportunity to monitor and analyse a wide range of data, including animal performance, grazing behaviour, health and welfare and product quality. In summary, areas of expertise include:
Effect of genetic and environmental factors on animal performance
Energy and nutrient use efficiency
Greenhouse gas emissions and the effects of mitigation strategies at farm and animal levels
Management strategies to promote biodiversity and other ecosystem services
Health (notably in terms of internal and external parasite infections), welfare and product quality
AFBI sheep flock – 320 breeding ewes and several ram breeds depending on research needs
Group and individual pens for winter housing, indoor lambing and feeding/welfare studies
Unique set up of six individual calorimetric chambers for metabolism and greenhouse gas studies (including CH4, CO2, NH3, N2O)
UK-first individual feed box and water intake system with integrated live weight assessment, suitable for a range of lifestages and diets
Mobile DEXA scanner assessing carcass quality and bone density
Access to a network of hill and lowland commercial farms, where management strategies can be applied and monitored consistently across farms
On site feed mill for the production of specialist diets
Improved understanding of ruminant metabolism leading to better rationing systems and the increased efficiency of feed conversion to lamb production. Development of new feed products and phenotypes for genetic improvement. Reduced greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions for livestock systems.
Supporting the Grand Challenges facing livestock food production:
Climate Smart Food Systems
Resource Efficiency & Precision Nutrition
Health & Welfare Management
Sheep Nutrition and Metabolism Unit
This bespoke CIEL-funded facility enables the assessment of individual dietary intake of forage, concentrates and water within a group feeding environment complete with automated in-pen weighing of livestock.
The facility is partnered with six cutting-edge individual metabolism chambers enabling detailed investigations into the impact of genetics, diet and management factors on nutrient and energy utilisation efficiency and gaseous emissions – a unique platform for investigating the role and impact of the microbiome in livestock production.
Analytical cookies are used to understand how visitors interact with the website. These cookies help provide information on metrics the number of visitors, bounce rate, traffic source, etc.
The _ga cookie, installed by Google Analytics, calculates visitor, session and campaign data and also keeps track of site usage for the site's analytics report. The cookie stores information anonymously and assigns a randomly generated number to recognize unique visitors.
Set by Google to distinguish users.
Installed by Google Analytics, _gid cookie stores information on how visitors use a website, while also creating an analytics report of the website's performance. Some of the data that are collected include the number of visitors, their source, and the pages they visit anonymously.
Vimeo installs this cookie to collect tracking information by setting a unique ID to embed videos to the website.