Liggins Institute

Other research facilities

Some of our research ideas are tested in live animal systems when it is inappropriate to use human subjects. All such work is conducted in accordance with the National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee guidelines and with approval from the relevant animal ethics committee.


Of necessity, some aspects of our research require us to use live animals to test hypotheses. We are conscious of our responsibilities and the need for accountability in this area and undertake such studies only when there are no alternative methods available.

All our studies comply with current legislation and local and national ethical standards. In undertaking this work we strive to minimise the number of animals used and optimise practices that ensure their welfare. One of our researchers has recently received the New Zealand National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee’s prestigious Three Rs award for his research innovations which led to major improvements in the welfare of sheep used for testing the effects of maternal nutrition on the health of their offspring.

Read about the Three Rs Award

The use of animals for research or teaching is governed by the Animal Welfare Act. This Act requires all of the University to have a Code of Ethical Conduct which is approved by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), and to establish an Animal Ethics Committee (AEC) to consider all applications involving the use of animals for Research, Testing and Teaching.

Guidance for Animal Ethics Committees is provided by the National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee (NAEAC).
Studies are conducted in small animals (usually rodents) or sheep.

Code of Ethical Conduct
(634.6 kB, PDF)

Small animal studies

Institute researchers have established and validated rodent systems for studying the effects of the intrauterine environment on fetal and later life growth and metabolism, reproductive and cognitive development, learning, risks of adult diseases and ageing. Other models mimic complex diseases and conditions such as brain damage (eg, stroke) and cancer.


Research farm for large animal studies

The Liggins Institute Farm is a unique and versatile facility for the study of sheep nutrition, health and reproductive biology.

A photoperiod-controlled facility allows individual feeding of 120 sheep and group feeding of a further 150. Grazing is available at the site for the long-term management of postnatal animals. On-site facilities include

  • purpose-built lamb intensive care unit with incubators, suction, piped gas supply, ventilators etc, allowing the level of care necessary for preterm lambs and those small for gestation age
  • dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scanner for measuring body composition
  • arena and maze enclosures for behavioural studies in sheep
  • wet laboratory area for sample processing
  • office and meeting space.

The facility has been developed in conjunction with Landcorp Farming, New Zealand's largest corporate farmer. This joint development recognises the need for research that will increase farming success through better understanding of the link between the nutrition of farm animals and their reproductive biology. The research is also relevant to improving animal health and welfare, as well as human and veterinary medicine.

The facility is recognised internationally for its capabilities in large animal research. Ongoing international collaborations have arisen because the facility and expertise that the Liggins Institute and Landcorp bring to this venture is without equal in the world. The facility is available to visiting scientists on a contract and collaborative basis. Accommodation is also available on site.