Charles Sturt University
Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation

Spring 2021

Table of Contents

  • From the Director
  • Hormones, behaviour and collars: What makes a good mother?
  • Pre-emergent herbicides and novel pasture legumes
  • New dung beetle springs to action
  • Ewe management: No one size fits all sheep enterprises
  • Sheep producers underestimate lamb, profit losses
  • Are vegans and livestock producers really worlds apart?
  • Preparing Australian pig producers for disease ‘invaders’
  • Livestock Forum recordings available online
  • Students view research life from the inside
  • In the Limelight: David Falepau
  • In the Limelight: Jake Fountain

From the Director

What challenging times we live in!  COVID has made an enormous impact to the tertiary education sector across the nation. Restrictions for travel and access to research field sites, project extensions, without additional funding, and increasing financial constraints that have limited our ability to provide support to researchers have been the features of the last 12-18 months. Coupled with a changing landscape for education and research, the change underway will have long- reaching implications for how we do our business of research and support.

So I wanted to pay tribute to Graham Centre staff, researchers and students who have shown great resilience during the coronavirus pandemic. Research has continued, projects completed, there’s been engagement through online conferences, and we’ve seen students submit their thesis. That’s no mean feat when you consider the backdrop of COVID-19 and the associated lockdowns and travel restrictions.

We’re also looking ahead with Graham Centre members playing key roles in new flagship research initiatives including the Global Digital Farm with the Cooperative Research Centre for Food Agility, and in engaging with dairy farmers as part of a $3.2 million Food Agility CRC project to develop a decision support tool for mastitis. Our researchers are also working with KPMG to design projects for the $4 million Australian Agrifood Data Exchange.

Congratulations to new Graham Centre PhD graduates

A group of photos, a man in a laboratory, a woman holding a certificate, a woman outside, a woman in front of a wall and a woman outside

I would also like to extend a hearty congratulations to new Graham Centre PhD graduates and those soon to be conferred their awards.

Dr Nancy Saji’s research, through the Australian Research Centre Industrial Transformation Training Centre for Functional Grains, has provided evidence that the bioactive constituents in rice bran can reduce the level of risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This demonstrates the potential of rice bran as a functional food ingredient and greater use could boost economic viability for the Australian rice industry.

Sana Hanif's PhD focused on biological control of the destructive and economically important fungal disease, blackleg, in Canola. Her research identified two bacterial strains that significantly inhibit the growth of  Leptosphaeria maculans, the pathogen which causes blackleg, Her studies highlighted the potential for commercialisation but also the need for more research into their effect on soil and plant ecology, the dynamics of colonisation and the coexistence of these bacteria in the field.

Dr Arundhita Bhanjdeo’s PhD examined stakeholder perspectives in the design and evaluation of complex rural development projects. She developed a framework to allow stakeholders to share perspectives, understand the diversity in a project and appreciate, acknowledge and learn from each other’s perspective- ultimately enhancing outcomes and impacts of the projects.

Michelle Toutounji’s research, also through the Functional Grains Centre, examined the factors that influence the starch digestibility of rice. Her study investigated the influence of nitrogen fertiliser application, paddy storage, degree of milling, and retort processing on the starch digestibility of rice. Insights from this work may help the rice industry to access premium markets and improve the availability of ‘diabetic-friendly’ rice.

Drew Portman’s research examined the potential for lentil flour to be incorporated into wheat-based foods like bread and pasta. His work has potential benefits by increasing the nutritional content of foods we eat but also delivering new markets for lentils that have been downgraded.

Bridgette Logan’s PhD has shown the potential for Raman spectroscopy to be used as a rapid and portable tool to verify if beef carcases are from a grass or grain-fed production system. Dr Logan put the technology to the test on samples from a variety of production systems in both northern and southern Australia, with the results showing it can be used to objectively classify beef carcases. This is an important finding for the processing sector but also beef producers, with consumers demanding more information about how their food is produced.

We hope to be able to celebrate with all graduates at formal ceremonies in the future.

Professor Leigh Schmidtke

Acting Graham Centre Director


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Hormones, behaviour and collars: What makes a good mother?

A pilot study into whether the hormone prolactin affects the mothering ability of a beef cow could have major impact for cattle on northern Australia properties.

Dr Rory Nevard with a calfCharles Sturt University Masters student and veterinarian, Dr Rory Nevard said mothering ability is crucial to the breeder cow, and we need more information about the factors involved.

“In northern Australia, successful calving and calf survival are important for productivity, profitability and animal welfare,” he said.

Calf wastage and deaths are estimated to cost Australian graziers around $54 million each year.

However, calf wastage is difficult to assess in the large scattered herds across northern Australia as herds there are only mustered once or twice a year.

Previous research in the US and Europe has shown major calf losses are in first few days of life, particularly due to poor mothering behaviour.

Dr Nevard said Australia we know little about our cows’ mothering ability.

“Work in other species has shown that high levels of the hormone prolactin may be a crucial factor in becoming a good mother, but this is yet to be shown in cattle,” he said.

“It we find this relationship between prolactin and mothering ability in cows, it may offer important opportunities for cattle breeding or provide producers with management options.

Prolactin hormone is secreted from the brain and is important for both lactation and maternal behaviour.

“We know prolactin helps cows release their milk after calving. What we don’t fully understand is if prolactin is also related to the cow’s mothering ability – its ability to look after and care for its calf,” Dr Nevard said.

“In rats, rabbits and humans, this ability to produce prolactin can be ‘programmed’ into the foetus in late pregnancy, and so can be inherited from mother. We don’t yet know if this happens in livestock.”

Pilot project puts technology to the test

Dr Nevard and his supervisors are currently running a pilot project to assess the technologies and techniques to be used in a wider project.

They are working with the Precision Livestock Management Group from Central Queensland University in Rockhampton, who successfully use UHF proximity loggers to record and measure animal behaviour patterns in cattle in the tropics.

“In my current project at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga, we are measuring prolactin levels in the blood of 30 pregnant Angus cows every two days for three weeks, before and after calving,” Dr Nevard said.

“As new calves are born, we are also fitting proximity logger collars on both the cow and calf to record the interactions between them.

“This initial study gives us baseline data we need to check if this system would work in a bigger field trial up North. This will be needed as it is too difficult to use findings from Bos taurus cattle in southern Australia and expect them to be the same in North Australia, particularly where we use cattle with Bos indicus breeding.”

Cow and calfDr Nevard is excited with the possibilities of this work.

“If there is a direct relationship between prolactin and mothering, we can then ask the question, ‘Can we select cows for prolactin production to also be better mothers?’” he said.

This has important implications for cattle breeding and the big cattle stations of northern Australia where cows are left to calve and raise their offspring with minimal human intervention.

“Cows selected and bred for better mothering means these producers could help reduce some of the economic losses that occur between pregnancy testing and calf weaning,” Dr Nevard said.

“We know a good mother depends on more than prolactin: it also depends on cattle breed, climate, and the production system used.

“But breeding better mothers could give their calves a better chance to get on their feet and face the challenges of harsh climates or poor-quality feed.”

This research is supervised by Dr Cyril Stephen, Associate Professor Scott Norman and Dr Sam Pant, and funded by Meat & Livestock Australia.


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Pre-emergent herbicides and novel pasture legumes

Honours research student Alex Watson DealNovel pasture legumes offer alternatives for pasture / crop rotations on farms in southern Australia but can they survive and thrive under common pre-emergent herbicides?

Charles Sturt University Honours research student Alex Watson-Deal aims to find out.

Her research through the School of Agricultural, Environmental and Veterinary Sciences is investigating the effects of common pre-emergent herbicides such as trifluralin and diuron on the growth, development and root nodules of new hard-seeded annual pasture legumes such arrowleaf and bladder clovers and French serradella.

Miss Watson-Deal said the research aims to fill that knowledge gap around herbicide tolerance for farmers looking to sow these new legumes in rotations.

seredella grown a part of the trialThese legumes are well suited to the winter-rainfall climates of southern Australia as they are native to the Mediterranean region of southern Europe and North Africa,” Miss Watson-Deal said.

“As they are novel, however, herbicide companies rarely study the effects of their herbicides on these species.”

Legumes are an important addition for rotations as they add nitrogen to the soil for subsequent crops, provide high protein feed for grazing livestock, and can break crop disease cycles for damaging crop diseases.

As part of the study, small plots of Arrowleaf clover (Trifolium vesiculosum), bladder clover (Trifolium spumosum) and French serradella (Ornithopus sativus) are being compared with the common subterranean clover (Trifolium subterranaea) under nine commercial herbicides, with rates adapted from recommendations of similar pasture plants.

Once sown extensively throughout the cropping regions of southern Australia, subterranean clover is disappearing from paddocks as summer rains and drier springs become more common due to climate change.

The results of this study are expected to be available later this year.

Honours scholarship supports research

Miss Watson-Deal received an Honours scholarship from the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation to undertake this project.

“I am interested in research, I like a challenge and I am looking to have that higher qualification on my degree, so an Honours study really appealed to me,” she said.

“At this point I am unsure about where I want to go with my career - I would love to work internationally and see how other countries’ agricultural industries are run.

“I like agricultural research that is a bit different: I saw a story about CSIRO attempting to grow naturally coloured cotton that would minimise the need for polluting dyes. That different, exciting research really interests me.

“Next year I am travelling across Australia and hope to work in various jobs and industries: from fruit picking and station work to harvest jobs. I want to see other types of agriculture I am not used to.”


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New dung beetle springs to action

Professor Geoff GurrGraham Centre researchers working as part of the Dung Beetle Ecosystems Engineers team are anticipating the day when a new ‘spring active’ dung beetle species will be ready to help process and remove huge loads of livestock dung in Australia.

Senior team member and leading researcher Professor Geoff Gurr, is enthusiastic about the project’s mass rearing of new, imported dung beetle species, especially because these will complement species previously imported.

“Livestock never stop producing dung,” Professor Gurr said.

“However, insects process dung at different times of the year, and few of the dung beetles currently in Australia can process the dung during the spring season.

“We anticipate the new beetles will plug the ‘Spring gap’ complementing the work of other species which process livestock dung at other times of the year.”

The most recent member of the dung beetle ‘team’, Onthophagus andalusicus, originates from north Africa and southern Europe. Professor Gurr believes it should be well adapted to large regions across southern Australia.

“In its native home, this beetle is active in Spring, rapidly burying sheep and cattle dung into the soil,” Professor Gurr said.

“This converts dung waste into valuable resources for plants and beneficial micro-organisms and helps aerate the soil, which improves rainfall penetration.”

Onthophagus andalusicus was imported via the CSIRO laboratory in France to its Canberra facility, where it is currently being ‘bred up’.

 Onthophagus andalusicus Later this year, a batch will be transferred to the dung beetle project’s mass rearing facility on Charles Sturt University’s Wagga Wagga campus.

When sufficient numbers have been produced, this beetle will be released to suitable field sites across Australia.

“It’s critical we import non-native dung beetles because Australian native species have evolved to use the dry, pelletised dung of native marsupials such as kangaroos,” Professor Gurr said.

“They cannot cope with the moist dung produced by imported livestock, particularly cattle.

Professor Gurr said livestock dung provides important food for bushfly larvae in Australia.

“Reducing the dung remaining in paddocks reduces the incidence of these nuisance flies. Even more important is the fact that dung beetle feeding on dung breaks the lifecycle of worm parasites found in livestock.”

The five-year Dung Beetle Ecosystem Engineers (DBEE) project will ultimately see the introduction of three new dung beetle species, specifically chosen to fill seasonal and geographical gaps in the distribution of beetles across southern Australia.

Charles Sturt University, through the Graham Centre, is leading the project in a national research campaign led by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), with funding from the Australian Government’s Rural Research and Development for Profit program.


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Ewe management: No one size fits all sheep enterprises

Research at the Graham Centre is exploring and seeking to update ewe management practices across NSW, Victoria and South Australia.

PhD student Amy Bates in front os sheep Charles Sturt University PhD student Amy Bates believes no one size fits all for sheep enterprises.

“Management guidelines need to reflect different production systems, including sheep breeds, regions and management practices,” Miss Bates said.

“The current accepted recommendations for managing ewe nutrition, the Lifetime Wool and Lifetime Ewe Management guidelines, are widely adopted but have not been robustly tested across different regions, mating seasons and sheep breeds.”

Miss Bates said that the guidelines were primarily based on work with Merino ewes from a limited number of locations.

“Sheep producers across southern Australia have told me these recommendations don’t fit their individual situations as they may be producing, say, prime crossbred lambs on a mix of irrigated and native saltbush pastures in the dry western Riverina plains. It’s not the same,” she said.

In conjunction with the NSW Department of Primary Industries, body condition scores and pregnancy scanning information were collected from around 30,000 ewes on properties located from the New England and Monaro tablelands to the Riverina and Far West NSW plains, plus several regions in Victoria and the Mid-North in South Australia, across multiple breeding and production systems.

The data was used to find the ‘reproductive response’ of ewes from different breeds to body condition when they were joined in each region.

In addition, Miss Bates surveyed 52 sheep producers to identify ewe management practices currently being used by producers of Merino, Maternal (woolly first cross) and Composite (second cross) breeds are currently using.

While still early in the data analysis phase of her research, Miss Bates has identified that joining condition does not have the same effect on reproductive response across all the breeds involved.

For producers, this means that the target condition at joining for best reproductive response will depend on the breed they are running.

“Such results confirm what many producers already know – that no one set of guidelines can fit all production systems,” Miss Bates said.

This research fits within her broader studies that explore the impact of nutrition at joining on reproductive output of ewes, and what impact, if any, this may have on gross margins for sheep enterprises.

“While no two sheep producers are the same, there are common management factors, such as sheep breed, available nutrition, region and season of mating, that underpin sheep production. Balancing these factors to ensure the best production system can be difficult,” Miss Bates said.

“My research is exploring these factors collectively and will determine what impact they may be having to a producer’s bottom line.”

The next step

In coming months, Miss Bates will combine data collected through her surveys and the physical condition and pregnancy outcome data for each region to assess the profitability of a model enterprise using AusFarm modelling software.

“Building on the current ewe management guidelines is an exciting prospect and I think that my research will lend itself to this,” Miss Bates said.

“There is no doubt that further tailoring of joining guidelines to better suit sheep producers of various breeds, regions and management practices will improve enterprise productivity and profitability.”

Miss Bates is supervised by Dr Shawn McGrath, Dr Susan Robertson and Professor Bruce Allworth at Charles Sturt University, and Dr Gordon Refshauge with the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

The project is funded by Meat & Livestock Australia and a scholarship through the Graham Centre.


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Sheep producers underestimate lamb, profit losses

A Charles Sturt University researcher has found that NSW sheep producers could be seriously underestimating their lamb losses, which could impact effective management and on-farm profits.

PhD student Kayla Kopp with lambsPhD student at the School of Agricultural, Environmental and Veterinary Sciences,  Ms Kayla Kopp outlined her research at the Graham Centre’s recent livestock forum.

“In a recent survey with NSW producers, nearly half of respondents reported losses of lambs to be less than 10 per cent between birth and marking,” Ms Kopp said.

“In contrast, published data estimated average lamb losses between 20 and 25 per cent.

“Farmers might not realise how much money they have lost with these lamb losses, which are mostly due to dystocia, mismothering, and exposure to cold, wet and windy weather.

“With around 10 million lambs dying before weaning across Australia, this could be the difference between a profitable or loss-making enterprise.”

This survey is part of Ms Kopp’s wider project that is investigating lamb mortality from lamb birth to weaning through the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation.

It aims to improve ewe production using nutritional supplements, which can have major impacts of lamb survival and producers’ bottom lines.

The online and in-person survey, with 30 questions, resulted in 145 returns from sheep producers across NSW, from the western NSW plains to the Monaro and New England tablelands.

“Through the survey, I sought producers’ perceptions of ewe management and lambing on their properties, in their situations,” she said.

“These producers covered meat and wool producing animals. The main cause of lamb mortality was identified to be starvation and exposure, although higher levels of predation were reported compared to published data. This has major implications for flock management.”

Ms Kopp said producers reported that around 20 per cent lambs only received a single vaccination for clostridial diseases.

“Lambs need a booster shot four weeks after of the initial shot to Increase their immunity and survival,” Ms Kopp said.

The survey builds on Miss Kopp’s earlier field studies focused on nutritional supplementation and milk production.

“I have also found that feeding maize and an amino acid, methionine, during lambing could improve ewe milk production and performance. However, this needs more research particularly to check if this improves lamb survival and if it is economically viable for farmers to use this feeding strategy,” she said.

Other lamb survival research

The project, supervised by Professor Michael Friend and Drs Susan Robertson and Angel Abuelo Sebio is part of the Graham Centre’s wider research focus that aims to improve the productivity and profitability of sheep production in Australia.

“One in five lambs born in Australia dies within days of birth, costing the industry over $1 billion each year,” Professor Friend said.

“Our research aims to better understand how those losses occur and to develop knowledge and tools that will help producers improve animal health and boost lamb survival.”

The survey was approved by the Charles Sturt Human Research Ethics Committee. The survey was funded by the Australian Graduate Research Training Program, Meat & Livestock Australia and the Graham Centre.


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Are vegans and livestock producers really worlds apart?

Do vegans and livestock producers share values on issues surrounding the Australian livestock industry?

Erin StranksCharles Sturt University Bachelor of Animal Science (Honours) graduate Erin Stranks has identified a number of shared values between the apparently antagonistic groups using an online survey completed in late 2020.

"I found that the potential hostility between vegans and livestock producers lies not with each other, but with outdated practices, lack of education around meat consumption, lack of transparency and the recent negative portrayal of livestock industries by media," Miss Stranks said.

"I acknowledge that collaboration between vegans and livestock producers can only go so far; there will always be a fundamental difference in opinions around the use of animals by humans.

"However, collaborative discussions could reap significant benefits for both groups."

The survey attracted a credible 404 responses from both regional and metropolitan locations, of which 292 identified as vegans and the remainder as livestock producers.

Replacing the originally intended face-to-face interviews due to pandemic restrictions, the survey included 26 questions that addressed their stances on common animal welfare concerns.

Among the common threads that united the two groups were desires for a more sustainable agriculture industry, improved livestock health and well-being, and better education around food origins.

“Both groups value idealism, detailed information, the welfare of farmed animals, social responsibility and sustainable farming,” Miss Stranks said.

“This research has highlighted that, when working towards a common aim, vegans and livestock producers could potentially collaborate to foster innovation and create a proactive livestock sector.

“Both groups are concerned about the ethics of current farm animal welfare practices in Australia: they also had ideas on how to address them. They saw education in schools and the public arena about the origins of food as an important step in addressing these issues.”

The study was conceived around the time when stories around vegan and farming interactions were broadcasted across the media, and the antagonism between vegans and livestock producers was at an all-time high.

“I thought, ‘there must be a different way for these two groups to interact, they surely share some common values’. This study provides some of the evidence needed to address some misunderstandings between these groups,” Erin said.

Miss Stranks presented her research at the Sustainable Food Future Conference held in June this year, where she was awarded ‘best student presentation’.

Miss Stranks was awarded a Graham Centre Honours scholarship that funded her research.

“The scholarship provided the necessary funds for my research and material to promote the survey,” Miss Stranks said.

“The Graham Centre staff also supported my presentation at the Livestock Conference and my participation in radio interviews that promoted my research. They played an important role in the success of this study.”

When asked about why she wanted to undertake an Honours project Miss Stranks said, “I have always had a curious nature – this study shaped my curiosity into a form that can make an impact. I was also interested in the real-world and networking opportunities that it would provide me for life beyond university.

“I would highly encourage anyone thinking of entering into Honours research to do it. I gained so many skills that I can bring to my new workplace, and it presented me with some really exciting opportunities,” Miss Stranks said.


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Preparing Australian pig producers for disease ‘invaders’

Graham Centre researchers have been investigating if piggeries will be sufficiently secure from feral pigs if a major disease outbreak occurs near them.

Tamille Barret installing a camera trap as part of her workCharles Sturt University Bachelor of Veterinary Science (Honours) research student Ms Tamille Barrett and her supervisors developed an assessment questionnaire to identify the susceptibility of commercial pig operations to the risk of African swine fever (ASF) through contact with feral pigs.

“African swine fever has spread globally. If Australia were to have an ASF outbreak, the impact would be devastating for our pig farmers,” said Ms Barrett, who recently completed her research as part of her degree with and the School of Agriculture, Environmental and Veterinary Sciences.

“Understanding the spread of the disease will help appropriate prevention to be implemented to protect our farm animals.

“The feral pig population found around Australia could become a potential source of ASF if it entered Australia.

“If ASF spreads in our feral pig population, our pork industry may face trade restrictions as well as economic, social and animal welfare implications.

“We conducted a risk assessment to identify the risk of ASF spread from feral pigs to domestic pigs,” she said.

Compartmentalisation and zoning are two biosecurity strategies that can be used to maintain trade in unaffected areas.

A compartment is a secure ‘barrier’ to separate animal populations such as feral and commercial pigs.

For international trade to continue where major diseases are present, compartments must be under the direct control and responsibility of the nation’s veterinary administration.

The risk assessment was conducted for commercial pig producers to assess their ability to ‘compartmentalise’ their pigs from nearby feral pigs in preparation for an ASF outbreak in Australia’s feral pig population.

“The opportunity for ASF transmission from feral to domestic pigs in a piggery must be negligible for compartmentalisation to be recognised for international trade,” Ms Barrett said.

“We used interviews with feral pig experts or ecologists and local pig producers, as well as information about current production practices and ASF to assess the risk, and then evaluated three commercial piggeries in southern NSW and northern Victoria.

"We found that even in areas with low numbers of feral pigs, commercial piggeries should protect themselves by using appropriate fencing, grids and gates to reduce the risk of feral pigs entering the property.

Ms Barrett believed that further investigation “of functional boundaries such as appropriate fencing and gates is needed to prevent disease transmission between feral and commercial pigs”.

“We can use camera traps to monitor the movement of feral pigs around the boundary of commercial piggeries - we can investigate this further in the future,” she said.

Ms Barrett was supervised by Dr Victoria Brookes and Associate Professor Marta Hernandez-Jover, with funding from the Graham Centre. The study was approved by the Charles Sturt Human Ethics Committee.


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Livestock Forum recordings available online

Sheep and beef producers can now tap into new research and panel discussions on key industry issues in recordings of the 2021 Graham Centre Livestock Forum.

Dr Shawn McGrath at a computerThe online Forum, on Friday 30 July, brought together hundreds of producers, advisors, and industry representatives.

Graham Centre livestock systems research pathway leader, Charles Sturt University lecturer Dr Shawn McGrath said if you missed the event now is the perfect time to catch up by watching it on the Graham Centre’s YouTube channel.

“The first keynote session at the Livestock Forum focused on environmental sustainability, profit and the path to carbon neutrality,” Dr McGrath said.

“It features presentations about the research and innovation being undertaken by the NSW Department of Primary Industries, Meat & Livestock Australia and the industry, along with the experience of producer Stuart Austin from the Wilmot Cattle Company in trading carbon credits.”

Dr McGrath said Charles Sturt University higher degree by research students also presented their work.

“It was great to hear from the next generation of researchers with the recordings of the sheep and beef concurrent sessions giving a snapshot of Graham Centre projects from paddock to plate,” he said.

“The final session looked at building resilient livestock systems with presentations about biosecurity, pastures and dung beetles.

“There was also a great discussion about managing stock levels with advisor John Francis from Agrista and producer Bobby Miller from the Coolac Cattle Company.”

The Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, an alliance between Charles Sturt University and the NSW Department of Primary Industries, has hosted the event for more than a decade.

It was sponsored by Riverina LLS, Meat & Livestock Australia, Nutrien Ag Solutions, Animal Health Australia, ProWay Livestock Equipment, Sheep Connect NSW, and Teys Australia.


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Students view research life from the inside

A student internship program offered by the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation lifts the lid on research and gives future scientists a peak at research life from the inside.

Now in its sixteenth year, the program encourages undergraduate students who have nearly completed their courses to pursue a research career in agriculture and related industries.

Despite pandemics and ensuing lockdowns, the student interns continue to learn and support research projects at and around the campus farm and other facilities at Charles Sturt in Wagga Wagga.

This year five students have taken part in the program. Here are some of their stories:

India Anderson, 3rd year Bachelor of Veterinary Biology / Bachelor of Veterinary Science student, from Sydney, NSW.

“As an intern, I have been encouraged to explore my research interests, be that in the laboratory, in the field, or at a desk.

“For much time, I have been working with the parasitology team, honing my laboratory and parasite identification skills under the direction of highly skilled researchers.

“I have also been encouraged to explore other areas of research including sheep production, reproduction and nutrition.

“This program has been an amazing opportunity to work with renowned researchers and immerse myself in the world of research; I highly encourage anybody interested in research to apply!”

Emily Blyton, 3rd year Bachelor of Agricultural Science student, from Nimmitabel, NSW.

Emily Blyton at work“My internship has given me practical experience in the ‘behind the scenes’ of research. From being in the lab counting seeds to going out in the field, it’s great to see the processes that are involved.

“If you are interested in research, the internship is an experience I would highly recommend. You get the opportunity to be paid to learn in an environment where no question is too silly to ask. It can’t get much better than that!”

Mikayla Green, 3rd year Bachelor of Animal Science, from Rangiora, Canterbury, New Zealand.

“Students should take these opportunities as it is a great way to gain practical experience in a professional setting, and to meet people the field of work.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my internship experience; I’ve been involved in a wide range of activities from assisting in the MRI scanning of sheep to doing parasitology work on fish.”

Bonnie Mitchell, 2nd year Bachelor of Agricultural Science, from Ellerston, NSW

“My internship experience has been exceptional: my mentor has opened my eyes to the range of agricultural technologies that are out there and the programs available to help with day-to-day agricultural operations, some of which I plan to use at home!

“Students should take advantage of opportunities for internships - they provide a great education outside of lectures, and are often very hands-on.

“You meet knowledgeable people, make important contacts, and expand your skills and practical experience. You can even make a little extra cash while you are at it!"


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In the Limelight: David Falepau

Professor of Agricultural Business Management

Organisation: School of Agricultural, Environmental and Veterinary Sciences

Career Brief:

18 yr old - Shepherd, fencer, shearer,

27 yr old - Undergraduate (Aggie), postgraduate (PhD animal/meat science),

33 yr old - Researcher (QDPI), Research, Development and Engagement Manager at Meat & Livestock Australia

42 yr old - General Manager, agribusiness consultant, Chief Executive Officer

50 yr young - Professor of Agricultural Business Management….

Research and Teaching Activities and Interests

Research activities

  • Soil Cooperative Research Centre (Soil CRC): Innovation capability building program (mentoring five farmer groups).
  • Samoa/Fiji ACIAR small livestock project USP, FNU, MOAs in Fiji and Samoa - my family and cultural heritage.
  • Cool Soil Initiative (Food Agility Cooperative Research Centre)
  • HDR co-super – Farmer adaptation to drought.

Teaching activities

  • ‘Look after’ the Bachelor and Master of Agricultural Business Management
  • Agribusiness Systems – agricultural value chains
  • Agribusiness Planning – BABM capstone – five-year business planning
  • Industry Practice – agribusiness workplace learning
  • MABM dissertation
  • Anything else, anywhere, anytime. If you’ve got a gap, I’m happy to find something on farm or livestock management to fill it with.

Professional Links and activities

a man standing in front of a buildingChair of the Graham Centre Board

Member (Agribusiness) Charles Sturt commercial farm management committee

Chair of private family Pastoral Company Board

Advisory Board member of African development investment company

Consult (pro-bono) to Government and Agriculture Ministry (Africa)

A typical day for me includes …

Run through i2 subject site discussion forums

Zoom meeting

Zoom lecture and tutorial

Another Zoom meeting

Another Zoom meeting

Another Zoom meeting……

My main project at the moment is …

I am about to commence a second round of a Soil CRC funded program I designed to build innovation systems, capability, and culture in participating farmer groups.  In a nutshell, I mentor/coach an innovation manager employed by each of the five farmer groups to lead farmer-initiated innovation around soil stewardship.

My favourite part of my job is …

Seeing Agricultural Business Management students through their capstone subject “Agribusiness Planning”. It’s authentic.  They each develop a five-year strategic plan for - or rather with - a real farm business.  For many it’s their own family’s farm.  So its huge for them, for their families and for the next generation of agriculture in Australia.

When I am not in the office I …

  • Drive horse truck, repair fences, para-vet, shoe, trim, rug, jump poles…all for love...
  • Hang out with my grandsons.
  • Shear, crutch, lamb, drench, vaccinate, slaughter, butcher, eat ….. my sheep.  100 mixed sex, mixed breed, mixed up stragglers that I keep to remind me of where I started and how blessed I am for my family, the mentors and the career opportunities I've had.

When I am driving I like to listen to …

George Thorogood and the Destroyers


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In the Limelight: Jake Fountain

a photo of a man with a cat on his shoulderSupervisor: Associate Professor Marta Hernandez-Jover, Dr Victoria Brookes, Dr Jennifer Manyweathers and Dr Yiheyis Maru

Thesis title: Exploring the value of on-farm biosecurity for the Australian beef producer.

Funding: Australian Research Training Program Scholarship, Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation top-up scholarship and Meat

Relevant Current Employment: Stay at home cat Dad

Career and studies till now

I graduated from Charles Sturt University in 2016 with a Bachelor of Veterinary Biology/Bachelor of Veterinary Sciences and first-class Honours. My Honours project was a risk assessment of on-farm biosecurity in NSW sheep farms, using foot-and-mouth disease as a model.  After graduation I spent five years in small animal emergency and critical care in Canberra. After two years in practice, I started to miss my work in farm animal biosecurity and jumped at the first opportunity at a PhD. I’m currently in my final year of my PhD, with a focus on biosecurity in beef cattle.

Currently studying: Doctor of Philosophy

Research Interest

Nothing makes me happier than having access to good quality produce on a daily basis. As such, I’m passionate about research that promotes sustainable farming practices that benefit industry, consumer, farmer, and their livestock. My veterinary background underpins my interest in preventing diseases and improving farm animal welfare through a better understanding of disease impacts and stakeholder priorities.

A typical day for me includes ...

Every morning starts with breakfast and a coffee while watching ABC News. Before starting on work, I make sure to get in a quick yoga session (one of my cats normally joins me) to stretch out the joints before getting into the office chair. After a quick run, lunch involves a sit on the balcony to get some sun. Once the day is over, my partner and I hit the kitchen together, my favourite part of the day.

My main project at the moment is ...

Currently I’m trying to prepare my second PhD chapter for publication. At the same time, I’m always refining my literature review. There’s always something that needs doing.

My favourite part of my studies is ...

Learning new things. Every day I’ll read an article that’ll teach me something new.

When I am not studying I like to ...

One of my biggest hobbies is cooking. On the weekends you’ll normally find me making pasta dough in my kitchen or tending to my Weber kettle while slow smoking a rack of ribs.

When I am driving I like to listen to ...

Most of the time I’m on my motorcycle, so there’s no room for music inside the helmet. On the odd occasion that I do drive, I just let the radio choose for


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