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Samantha (Sammy) McIntyre
2023 Nuffield Scholar
Enriched environments could enhance lamb production says Nuffield Scholar
As more sheep enter feedlots across Australia, producer Sammy McIntyre will study how enriching these environments to encourage natural behaviours can benefit the industry. Sammy has been awarded a Nuffield Scholarship, supported by Rabobank, to study this topic.
Sammy is the Chief Financial Officer of the family’s farming business, which includes “Hillstream” on the Fleurieu Peninsula and cropping and feedlot/lamb finishing enterprises on the Yorke Peninsula. She is also the Farm Manger of “Hillstream”, where the family runs a self-replacing prime lamb enterprise of 1,100 breeding ewes weaning on average 135% lambs per ewe joined. In recent years, she has led the family to overhaul their sheep enterprise by implementing several best practices. These initiatives have boosted productivity by increasing ewe fecundity and lamb survival and reducing ewe mortality.
“The last 12 months has seen a change to a self-replacing composite model and the use of individual animal management technology."
Through the Nuffield Scholarship, Sammy will study the benefits of enriched environments for intensive sheep production and practical steps for producer implementation. She says finishing animals in feedlots and other types of intensive sheep production, such as drought lots, confinement feeding and yard weaning, was becoming more common.
“While these tools optimise production, ensure animal welfare and enhance land management, the trade-off has been that animals are kept in relatively dull environments that can impinge on their freedom to express normal behaviours. Increasingly consumers are seeking out higher welfare products, with increasing scrutiny on livestock industries – particularly intensive systems – challenging the status quo.”
Sammy says small studies that have been completed show lambs in enriched pens (simply including ramps, platforms or straw bales for lambs play) had significantly higher welfare outcomes, better eating quality and average daily weight gain than those in barren pens.
“I also see potential benefits in other intensive livestock systems, particularly beef, dairy and goat production,” she says.
To explore this topic, Sammy will travel to different parts of Australia plus countries in southern Africa, Brazil, southern United States and Mexico which have similar production systems to Australia. She is also keen to visit regions with a long history of housing ruminant animals including Europe and Canada.
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