10 Questions with Natalia Martín and Nicholas Sneddon


Q1: Who do you see as the target reader?

This book is a key text for students in the agricultural and animal sciences areas, as well as those involved in studies related to food production, animal welfare, animal nutrition, agricommerce and environmental studies. It is also targeted to farmers and industry people interested in the agricultural/agribusiness sector.

Q2: What do you hope they will get from the book?

An introduction and general overview on commercial animal production in New Zealand. This book was written with the idea to inform the ongoing debate about how we manage land, water and animals in the country.

Q3: What are the changes or innovations in livestock production that have caught your interest?

Genetic improvement and the use of technologies to increase or change the progress of genetic gain to improve animal health and systems’ sustainability. Another exciting area is the increase in precision agricultural applications and biotechnologies to minimise the environmental impact of animal production.

Q4: What are the main challenges for farmers in livestock production?

Main challenges for most livestock farming relate to reducing the impact of animal agriculture on the environment at local, national and international scales; working with increasingly complex regulatory obligations; food security and farming within a changing climate and environment.

Essentially food producers are being asked to produce same amount or more food with less resources and inputs into the system, while minimising harmful outputs. This means that efficiency has never been more important. On top of these farm-level considerations there is an increasing public scrutiny on farming, changing the public licence “envelope” in which our farmers can operate.

Q5: Who are the contributors to the book?

The authors of this book are, in general, academic staff of Massey University and actively engaged in research to improve both the performance of and impact of livestock farming for a sustainable future. Some authors are working in the industry as well, which keeps the content of the book up-to-date with farm practices.

Q6: How is technology making an impact on livestock production?

Precision agriculture is making a huge impact, allowing a greater level of detail and granularity to help with early detection of poor animal welfare, health or production experienced by individual animals. This means that in a herd of 600 cows it is possible to find a cow who may develop mastitis or lameness a few days before it happens and intervene to reduce the health or welfare impact on that animal.

Q7: What area of livestock production has seen the most growth since the first edition of the book?

Poultry – it is the largest livestock industry in New Zealand based on the number of individual animals. It is also the most commonly consumed meat in the country.

Q8: What are the limiting factors to growth in the future?

There is a requirement and onus on the animal agriculture industries to reduce their impact on the environment, so there will be more marginal land retired out of animal uses into forestry or conservation/rehabilitation. Along with this constraint is a constantly evolving public licence to operate which will change the way in which we farm.

Q9: What are the most exciting innovations in livestock production?

Individual animal monitoring or real-time monitoring of production, ‘wearable’ sensors, and a greater use of computer modelling and simulation to determine optimal management strategies for animals will cause some disruption and in turn greater innovation. After this, there will be a greater access to ‘cheaper’ biological information such as genetic markers, metabolites and physiological measurement.

Q10: What is your current area of research?

Both of us are involved in research relating to the fate of calves from the dairy industry, looking at dairy-beef research and changing calf management.