Listen: Identifying heat resilience in farm animals for better welfare and productivity

Heat stress is a major challenge for both animal welfare and farm productivity in Australia, particularly as the sector faces climate change and a growing frequency and severity of heatwaves.

There is therefore a need to identify animals that are relatively heat resilient.

Progress has been made with a number of species but, surprisingly, very little work has been done on sheep in Australia. It is a wide-held belief by farmers that merinos are the ideal sheep for our country, but other breeds are more heat resilient and possess attributes that are seemingly desirable.

In this Dean’s Research Seminar, Professor Iain Clarke reviewed knowledge in this area, with particular focus on how to identify heat resilience through either phenomics, the study of traits that can be produced by an organism over the course of development and in response to genetics and its environment, or genomics.

Dr Surinder Chauhan shared some of the recent research into the assessment of heat tolerance in different sheep breeds and impacts of heat stress on dairy cattle conducted at the University of Melbourne's Dookie agricultural campus.

Watch or listen below.

The Dean’s Research Seminars showcase the breadth and importance of our research in food, agriculture and veterinary science. Each seminar aims to provide an overview of an area of research in a manner accessible to all staff, graduate researchers and students.

Professor Iain Clarke

Professor Iain Clarke

Iain Clarke has over 40 years experience as a research scientist, working mainly in the field of neuroendocrinology, investigating brain control of reproduction, metabolic function and obesity.

Professor Clarke's main animal model was the sheep and he devised a number of novel methodologies to investigate the function of the hypothalamus and pituitary. He has published over 500 papers in his field.

He has a fractional (0.4) appointment in the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, working closely with Dr Chauhan and others to identify animals that are heat-resilient.

Dr Surinder Chauhan

Dr Surinder Chauhan

Surinder Chauhan is a trained veterinarian and Senior Lecturer in Animal Science in the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Melbourne, where he has worked for nearly four years.

The major aim of his research program is to deliver solutions to promote sustainable and efficient livestock production under a changing climate and develop quality animal protein for consumers. He is particularly interested in assessment of heat-resilience and strategies to mitigate heat stress in farm animals. Before joining the faculty, Dr Chauhan worked as a Veterinary Officer for 10 years in India and was a postdoctoral researcher for two years at The Ohio State University, USA.