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How can​ we improve large ruminant reproduction efficiency?

Nina Matsumoto BVSc (III) BSc(Veterinary) student

University of Sydney undergraduate veterinary students who have completed at least three years of the BVSc degree have the opportunity to defer clinical training for 1 year and undertake a research project as a part of the Bachelor of Science (Veterinary).

As a direct-from-high school veterinary student, the research process has always been a mystery to me. What are you meant to do every day? Do you have to go to lectures? Who tells you what to do? Armed with these questions and more, I met with a number of lecturers and discussed potential projects including cartilage repair in sheep and wound healing in horses. However, when I learned of the work that the Mekong Livestock Research (MLR) team were undertaking in the South-East Asia, the opportunity to get involved was too good to pass up.

After meeting with Peter Windsor and Sonevilay Nampanya at the start of second semester in 3rd year (2013), I submitted a proposal to PERTC (our proposal system) that was subsequently accepted for a BSc(Vet) project. In addition I was awarded an honours scholarship, to financially support my research project.

Recent collaborative research by the MLR team has collected preliminary reproductive parameters in cattle and buffalo in northern Laos as part of baseline surveys conducted in the large scale ‘Best practice health and husbandry of cattle and buffalo in Lao PDR’ project. The study identified that that calving rates and inter-calving intervals were sub-optimal, and suggests that reproductive inefficiency is prevalent reflecting the lack of reproductive management practiced by smallholder farmers. It is considered there is significant potential for improving reproductive performance of large ruminants in Laos if smallholder knowledge, attitudes and practices required for improved reproductive outcomes for cattle and buffalo can be established.

I am travelling to Laos to survey smallholder beef farmers in provinces including Luang Prabang and Xiengkhouang, focusing on strengthening preliminary information on reproductive parameters and interventions. Gnina for blogreater understanding of the problem will help direct future research as to what interventions are needed.

Ultimately my project aims to lead to further research and interventions which will – much like Marvin Gaye did for the lovers of the 80’s – lead to a sustainable baby boom in the large ruminant population. Unfortunately I haven’t begun my own field research yet, so I don’t have many exciting photos to attach…

Stay tuned for further updates!

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