NSW lamb caffeine research initiative needs commercial boost

Sheep Central, July 1, 2019



















LAMB-SAVING caffeine supplement research by New South Wale’s Charles Sturt University still lacks a commercial partner three years after the initial study.

CSU researchers showed that caffeine supplementation to commercial Merino ewes pregnant to Merino rams in a small trial helped lower lamb mortality by up to 21 percent.

Trials are continuing to get supporting lamb survival and safety data, and project leader Dr Susan Robertson will outline the latest results from the caffeine research at the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation Livestock Forum on 26 July.

“We are still looking for a pharmaceutical partner,” she said.

“Given that we suspect that the benefit is through mediating the effects of hypoxia – oxygen deprivation during birth – we would think that both large lambs and small lambs would be benefited, but we need more data though.”

Dr Robertson said once a commercial partner is found it will take 2-3 years to prove caffeine supplementation via user-friendly means at the correct dose rate works within a range of conditions and breeds, do the food safety works and obtain approval from regulators.

She sounded a warning to farmers not undertake their own caffeine supplementation.

“If you get it wrong, you will kill them, farmers should not play with this stuff.

“It is a restricted chemical, it is off-label and it is absolutely illegal for farmers to try to do this.”

The first trial involved a caffeine supplement in feed, but researchers were now looking at testing other delivery options including rumen capsules.

CSU has approached a number of companies, but it still looking for a commercial partner, she said.

Bottom-line focus at forum

Graham Centre acting director, Associate Professor Marta Hernandez-Jover

New research and market insights to help sheep and beef producers to boost their bottom-line is the focus of the livestock forum, with speakers spanning increasing lamb survival, and tips on grazing crops and pasture, animal health and disease management.

Graham Centre Acting Director, Associate Professor Marta Hernandez-Jover said the livestock forum features the latest research from Charles Sturt University, the NSW Department of Primary Industries and the red meat industry.

“It will showcase new knowledge and information that can be applied directly on-farm.”

Keynote speakers include Culcairn livestock producer Murray Scholz talking about adding sheep to his cropping enterprise; Jim Virgona from Graminus Consulting on managing pasture fertility, and; market outlook insights from Australian Wool Innovation and Meat & Livestock Australia.

Producers will also have an opportunity to shape the research agenda in a facilitated workshop with time set aside to speak one-on-one with researchers.

Livestock Forum speakers – sheep

Impact of calcium and magnesium supplements on lamb performance – Forough Ataollahi, NSW Department of Primary Industries

Increasing lamb growth rates on novel legumes and supplements for grazing lucerne – Shawn McGrath, CSU.

Hydatid disease – a risk to your enterprise? – Cara Wilson, PhD student, CSU

Breeding for quality lamb meat from Merinos – Sue Mortimer, NSW Department of Primary Industries

Investigating the use of caffeine to increase lamb survival – Susan Robertson, CSU.

How can we be better prepared for protecting our industries against foot and mouth disease? – Marta Hernandez-Jover, CSU.

Cutting for hay can increase barley grass in pasture – John Piltz, NSW DPI

Effects of grain processing on crossbred lambs in feedlots – Sabrina Meurs, Honours student, CSU

Drought and supplementary feed calculator – Geoff Casburn, NSW DPI

Livestock Forum speakers – beef

The effect of Bovilis MH + IBR vaccination on weight gain in pre-feedlot steers – Fauve Buckley, Honours student, CSU.

Growing beef on dual purpose crops – Jeff McCormick, CSU.

Angus Australia: research and development for the commercial producer – Christian Duff, Angus Australia.

Pestivirus eradication and biosecurity on-farm – Rachael Long, Honours student, CSU.

Pain relief for castration (sheep and cattle) – Bruce Allworth, CSU.

Crush side test to aid bull fertility assessment – Mark Baker, UN and Allan Gunn, CSU

A copy of the full program is available on the Graham Centre website

The forum will be held from 9am to 3pm on Friday 26 July at the Convention Centre at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga. The cost of $25 per person includes morning tea, lunch and a copy of the proceedings. People can register online at

The forum is supported by Riverina Local Land Services, Meat & Livestock Australia, ProWay, Animal Health Australia and Teys Australia.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your comment will not appear until it has been moderated.
Contributions that contravene our Comments Policy will not be published.


Get Sheep Central's news headlines emailed to you -