Profiles

Megan Verdon

UTAS Home Dr Megan Verdon

Megan Verdon

Senior Research Fellow

Room A1-06 , Building A, Cradle Coast Campus

0499 898 028 (phone)

Megan.Verdon@utas.edu.au

Megan Verdon is a Senior Research Fellow at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture. She is interested in the development of livestock systems that achieve continual improvement in animal welfare and productivity. Her expertise includes confinement free sow housing systems, the use of virtual fencing technology to manage intensively grazed cattle and alternative rearing systems for dairy calves. Her current research focusses on opportunities for cow-calf suckling and the management of surplus calves in dairy systems.

Biography

Megan took the long path to find her career an animal welfare scientist. She received a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and the History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Melbourne in 2007. After a period working as an industrial chemist, Megan retuned to the University of Melbourne where she completed in a Post Graduate Diploma in Animal Science and Management. These studies introduced Megan to the discipline of animal welfare science, and in 2010 she commenced a PhD at the Animal Welfare Science Centre (AWSC) and the University of Melbourne. Her PhD studies explored the development of aggressive behaviour in sows, and how variability in aggressive behaviour related to individual performance in a group. Megan received the Australian Government Science and Innovation Award while her completing her PhD. She used this to study the effect of pre-weaning social experiences on the behavioural development of pigs. She also collaborated with industry to develop a novel ‘group-lactation’ housing system, which housed litters of pigs and their sows were housed together in groups rather than as individual litters with a confined sow (‘farrowing crate’). In 2015 Megan was employed as a postdoctoral research fellow at the AWSC where she continued her research into the welfare and production implications of group-lactation systems. She joined the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) as a research fellow in December 2016 to work on a project which assessed new “Virtual Fencing” technology to manage grazing livestock. Megan currently leads TIA’s ‘Animal production and welfare’ research group as well as several programs of research at TIA, including one addressing the slaughter of young male calves and another designing a cow-calf suckling system for pasture-based dairies.

Career summary

Qualifications

Degree

Thesis title

University

Country

Date of award

PhD

Sow aggression in groups: Predicting and implications for sow welfare

University of Melbourne

Australia

16/10/2014

Postgraduate Diploma in Animal Science and Management (Dean’s honour)

 

University of Melbourne

Australia

1/7/2010

B. Sci

 

University of Melbourne

Australia

2007

Memberships

Professional practice

Committee for the National Animal Welfare RD&E Strategy

International Society of Applied Ethology

Universities Federation for Animal Welfare

View more on Dr Megan Verdon in WARP

Expertise

    - Social behaviour of animals

    - Animal behaviour

    - Animal welfare

    - Pigs

    - Dairy

    - Aggressive behaviour

    - Individual variation in behaviour

    - Maternal effects on development

Research Themes

Megan’s research aligns to the University’s research theme of Environment, Resources and Sustainability. Grazing livestock systems play an important economic and socio-cultural role in the wellbeing of rural communities. Intensification of these systems draws attention and concern regarding social, animal, and environmental impacts. Grazing systems need to address these concerns or risk losing their social license to operate. Megan’s research functions at the nexus of animal welfare, animal productivity and social acceptance to develop the next generation of grazing livestock systems. By proactively addressing changing societal concerns Megan’s research aims to protect the sustainability of pastoral livestock farming systems in Australia, and thus the communities these industries support.

Awards

2020 UTAS Vice Chancellors Early Career Researcher Award 2020

2020 Commendation for Service Excellence to College of Sciences and Engineering

2017 Research Integrity and Ethics Awards

2014 Australian Department pf Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Science and Innovation Award

2011 Deans Honours

2010 Australian Pork Limited Postgraduate Research Scholarship Award

Current projects

Current projects include:

(1)   Increasing farm profitability and consumer acceptance through increased utilisation of non-replacement dairy calves.

(2)   Assessing the viability and implications of a cow-calf rearing system for pasture-based dairy production.

(3)   The effect of early life experience with non-maternal cows on behavioural development of heifers.

Fields of Research

  • Animal management (300302)
  • Animal behaviour (310901)
  • Animal welfare (300306)
  • Agronomy (300403)
  • Animal growth and development (300301)
  • Agricultural systems analysis and modelling (300207)
  • Pattern recognition (460308)
  • Animal nutrition (300303)

Research Objectives

  • Animal welfare (109902)
  • Dairy cattle (100402)
  • Pigs (100410)
  • Beef cattle (100401)
  • Environmentally sustainable animal production (100199)
  • Sheep for wool (100413)
  • Sown pastures (excl. lucerne) (100505)

Publications

Megan’s positive engagement with industry and other research providers has led to collaborative research and shared supervision of PhD students. She led a program of research within a $3.8 M Rural R&D for Profit collaboration of research providers, livestock industries and a commercial technology development organisation. This 4-year project assessed new “Virtual Fencing” technology to manage grazing livestock. Her collaborations with scientists from CSIRO and the University of Melbourne (UoM) have led to funding for research on ethical calf rearing in dairy systems and shared supervision of 3 PhD students. In 2019 Megan and her colleagues collaborated with industry to secure a $1.8 M grant from Dairy Australia (DA) and in 2020 she was part of a team that engaged with DA to obtain funding in a $6.5 M agreement.

Total publications

26

Journal Article

(18 outputs)
YearCitationAltmetrics
2022Verdon M, 'A review of factors affecting the welfare of dairy calves in pasture-based production systems', Animal Production Science ISSN 1836-0939 (In Press) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1071/AN21139 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 1

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2021Langworthy AD, Verdon V, Freeman MJ, Corkrey R, Hills JL, et al., 'Virtual fencing technology to intensively graze lactating dairy cattle I: Technology efficacy and pasture utilization', Journal of Dairy Science pp. 1-13. ISSN 0022-0302 (2021) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.3168/jds.2020-19796 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 5Web of Science - 4

Co-authors: Langworthy AD; Freeman MJ; Corkrey R; Hills JL; Rawnsley RP

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2021Verdon M, Horton B, Rawnsley R, 'A case study on the use of virtual fencing to intensively graze Angus heifers using moving front and back-fences', Frontiers in Animal Science, 2 Article 663963. ISSN 2673-6225 (2021) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.3389/fanim.2021.663963 [eCite] [Details]

Co-authors: Horton B; Rawnsley R

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2021Verdon M, Langworthy A, Rawnsley R, 'Virtual fencing technology to intensively graze lactating dairy cattle II: Effects on cow welfare and behavior', Journal of Dairy Science pp. 1-11. ISSN 0022-0302 (2021) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.3168/jds.2020-19797 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 2Web of Science - 2

Co-authors: Langworthy A; Rawnsley R

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2020Verdon M, Lee C, Marini D, Rawnsley R, 'Pre-exposure to an electrical stimulus primes associative pairing of audio and electrical stimuli for dairy heifers in a virtual fencing feed attractant trial', Animals, 10, (2) Article 217. ISSN 2076-2615 (2020) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.3390/ani10020217 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 8Web of Science - 8

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2020Verdon M, Rawnsley R, 'The effects of dairy heifer age at training on rate of learning and retention of learning in a virtual fencing feed attractant trial', Frontiers in Animal Science, 1 Article 4. ISSN 2673-6225 (2020) [Refereed Article]

[eCite] [Details]

Co-authors: Rawnsley R

2020Verdon MJ, Morrison RS, Rault J-L, 'The welfare and productivity of sows and piglets in group lactation from 7, 10, or 14 d postpartum', Journal of Animal Science, 98, (3) Article 037. ISSN 0021-8812 (2020) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1093/jas/skaa037 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Web of Science - 5

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2019Verdon M, Morrison RS, Rault J-L, 'Sow and piglet behaviour in group lactation housing from 7 or 14 days postpartum', Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 214 pp. 25-33. ISSN 0168-1591 (2019) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2019.03.001 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 7Web of Science - 8

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2019Verdon M, Morrison RS, Rault JL, 'Group lactation from 7 or 14 days of age reduces piglet aggression at weaning compared to farrowing crate housing', Animal, 13, (10) pp. 2327-2335. ISSN 1751-7311 (2019) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1017/S1751731119000478 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 8Web of Science - 8

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2018Verdon M, Morrison RS, Hemsworth PH, 'Forming groups of aggressive sows based on a predictive test of aggression does not affect overall sow aggression or welfare', Behavioural Processes, 150 pp. 17-24. ISSN 0376-6357 (2018) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1016/j.beproc.2018.02.016 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 5Web of Science - 4

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2018Verdon M, Rawnsley R, Raedts P, Freeman M, 'The behaviour and productivity of mid-lactation dairy cows provided daily pasture allowance over 2 or 7 intensively grazed strips', Animals, 8, (7) Article 115. ISSN 2076-2615 (2018) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.3390/ani8070115 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 11Web of Science - 11

Co-authors: Rawnsley R; Raedts P; Freeman M

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2018Verdon M, Zegarra N, Achayra R, Hemsworth PH, 'Floor feeding sows their daily allocation over multiple drops per day does not result in more equitable feeding opportunities in later drops', Animals, 8, (6) Article 86. ISSN 1751-7311 (2018) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.3390/ani8060086 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 3Web of Science - 3

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2017Verdon M, Morrison RS, Rault J-L, 'Group-lactation housing form 7 or 14 days post-partum: effects on piglet behaviour', Animal Production Science, 57, (12) pp. 2450-2450. ISSN 1836-0939 (2017) [Contribution to Refereed Journal]

DOI: 10.1071/ANv57n12Ab047 [eCite] [Details]

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2017Verdon M, Morrison RS, Rault J-L, 'Group-lactaion housing from 7 or 14 days post partum: effects on sow behaviour', Animal Production Science, 57, (12) pp. 2461-2461. ISSN 1836-0939 (2017) [Contribution to Refereed Journal]

DOI: 10.1071/ANv57n12Ab049 [eCite] [Details]

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2017Verdon M, Morrison RS, Rice M, Butler KL, Hemsworth PH, 'The short-term behavioural response of sows, but not gilts, to a social stimulus is related to sow aggressiveness in groups', Behavioural Processes, 140 pp. 216-225. ISSN 0376-6357 (2017) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1016/j.beproc.2017.04.013 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 2Web of Science - 1

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2016Singh C, Verdon M, Cronin GM, Hemsworth PH, 'The behaviour and welfare of sows and piglets in farrowing crates or lactation pens', Animal, 11, (7) pp. 1210-1221. ISSN 1751-7311 (2016) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1017/S1751731116002573 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 43Web of Science - 45

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2016Verdon M, Morrison RS, Hemsworth PH, 'Rearing piglets in multi-litter group lactation systems: effects on piglet aggression and injuries post-weaning', Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 183 pp. 35-41. ISSN 0168-1591 (2016) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2016.05.008 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 27Web of Science - 26

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2016Verdon M, Morrison RS, Rice M, Hemsworth PH, 'Individual variation in sow aggressive behavior and its relationship with sow welfare', Journal of Animal Science, 94, (3) pp. 1203-1214. ISSN 0021-8812 (2016) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.2527/jas.2015-0006 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 16Web of Science - 15

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Chapter in Book

(2 outputs)
YearCitationAltmetrics
2020Verdon M, 'Aggression between sows', Pigs: Welfare in Practice, 5m Publishing, I Camerlink (ed), Sheffield, UK, pp. 134-135. ISBN 9781789181050 (2020) [Research Book Chapter]

[eCite] [Details]

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2018Verdon M, Rault J-L, 'Aggression in group housed sows and fattening pigs', Advances in Pig Welfare, Woodhead Publishing, M Spinka (ed), United Kingdom, pp. 235-260. ISBN 9780081010129 (2018) [Research Book Chapter]

DOI: 10.1016/B978-0-08-101012-9.00006-X [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 17

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Review

(1 outputs)
YearCitationAltmetrics
2015Verdon M, Hansen CF, Rault J-L, Jongman LU, Hansen LU, et al., 'Effects of group housing on sow welfare: a review', Journal of Animal Science, 93, (5) pp. 1999-2017. ISSN 0021-8812 (2015) [Substantial Review]

DOI: 10.2527/jas2014-8742 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 56Web of Science - 52

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Conference Publication

(5 outputs)
YearCitationAltmetrics
2017Zegarra N, Hemsworth PH, Verdon M, 'Floor feeding over multiple drops does not increase feeding opportunities for submissive sows', Proceedings of the 51st Congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology, 7-10 August 2017, Aarhus, Denmark, pp. 177. (2017) [Conference Extract]

[eCite] [Details]

2015Rault J-L, Ho H, Verdon M, Hemsworth P, 'Feeding behaviour, aggression and dominance in group-housed sows', Animal Production Science, 22-25 November, Melbourne, pp. 1495. ISSN 1836-0939 (2015) [Refereed Conference Paper]

DOI: 10.1071/ANv55n12Ab001 [eCite] [Details]

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2015Verdon M, Morrison RS, Hemsworth PH, 'Short and long-term repeatability of individual sow aggressiveness', Animal Production Science, 22-25 November, Melbourne, pp. 1512. ISSN 1836-0939 (2015) [Refereed Conference Paper]

DOI: 10.1071/ANv55n12Ab055 [eCite] [Details]

Tweet

2015Verdon M, Morrison RS, Hemsworth PH, 'The effects of group lactation sow housing on aggression and injuries in weaner pigs', Proceedings of the 49th Congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology: Ethology for sustainable society, 14-17 September, Sapporo, Japan, pp. 63. ISBN 978-90-8686-271-9 (2015) [Conference Extract]

DOI: 10.3920/978-90-8686-817-9 [eCite] [Details]

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2013Verdon M, Morrison R, Rice M, Hemsworth PH, 'Group-housed sows who engage in aggression after mixing have reduced injuries and gain more weight', Proceedings of the 47th Congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology: Applied Ethology: understanding behaviour to improve livelihood, 02-06 June, Florianopolis, Brazil, pp. 68. ISBN 9789086867790 (2013) [Refereed Conference Paper]

DOI: 10.3920/978-90-8686-779-0 [eCite] [Details]

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Grants & Funding

Funding Summary

Number of grants

12

Total funding

$8,760,748

Projects

Effects of grain-free calf starter on crossbred dairy-beef calf feed intake, growth, weaning age and post-weaning performance (2022)$44,754
Description
This project will assess the growth and health of dairy-beef crossbred calves reared on a grain-free calf starter in comparison to a traditional grain-based starter. Data on growth, health events, concentrate consumption, time to weaning (based on weaning at 100 kg and consuming 1 kg grain/day for 3 consecutive days) and post-weaning growth will be collected.
Funding
Dairy Australia Limited ($11,603); Greenham Tasmania Pty Ltd ($33,151)
Scheme
Contract Research
Administered By
University of Tasmania
Research Team
Verdon MJ
Year
2022
A national framework for effective environmental enrichment for Australian livestock industries (2020)$10,000
Description
Synthetic review that will produce new knowledge and identify opportunities for practical and effective enrichment programs in Australian livestock industries.
Funding
University of New England ($10,000)
Scheme
Contract Research
Administered By
University of Tasmania
Research Team
Verdon MJ
Year
2020
Dairy High 2 (2020 - 2026)$3,277,567
Description
A multifaceted research approach is required to address the pressing challenges of high synthetic nitrogen fertiliser use, non-replacement dairy calves, and skill shortages of the Tasmanian dairy community. We propose to resolve these challenges by building on our prior projects and expertise, through the following three fields of work: Feedbase Research Achieve 20 tonnes of dry matter utilisation from irrigated pasture and 2000 kg milk solids per hectare with only 200 kg of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser. Welfare Research and Development Reduce the number of non-replacement dairy calves slaughtered at an early age by 50% by increasing carcass value and reducing rearing and finishing costs. Extension Enhancing and developing skills in the Tasmanian dairy community to support sustainable growth of pasture-based farming systems.
Funding
Dairy Australia Limited ($3,277,567)
Scheme
Contract Research
Administered By
University of Tasmania
Research Team
Hills JL; Langworthy A; Raedts PJM; Gee CM; McLaren D; Verdon MJ; Snare TA; Millhouse BJ
Period
2020 - 2026
Tasmanian Wool SmartFarm (2020)$50,000
Description
This project will investigate the benefits to production and sustainability in the adoption and application of advanced management technologies (AMTs), such as the AWI SmartTags, in several high performing wool producing properties in Tasmania. The objective of this project is to (1) create national and global visibility of the on-farm adoption of AMTs, and (2) demonstrate the use of AMTs in supporting practices associated with high quality, sustainable and socially acceptable wool and sheep production systems. This phase 1 project will support a potentially longer-term commitment between contributing parties and broader collaboration with a range of supply chain stakeholders
Funding
Australian Wool Innovation Limited ($50,000)
Scheme
Grant-Research and Development Open Call
Administered By
University of Tasmania
Research Team
Horton BJ; Verdon MJ; Andrewartha SJ; Kang BH; Cao Z; Chinthammit W; Bailey AN
Year
2020
Dairy HIGH - High Integrity Grass-fed Herds (2019 - 2021)$1,079,830
Description
This project focuses on sustainable and profitable growth in Tasmanias pasture based dairy industry. In this 16-month project proposal we will research and combine the accessible and emerging technologies and practices that are driving productivity and efficiency improvements, with the industrys desire to address consumer expectations with respect to environmental management (our environment), animal welfare (our cows) and our people.This will be achieved by focusing on 5 areas of work that relate to our environment, our cows and our people1.Nitrogen efficiency in highly productive systems (environment).2.Novel grazing practices in large grass-fed dairy systems (cows).3.Addressing and preparing for changing social values with respect to animal welfare (cows).4.Regional people and skills shortages (People).5.Building capacity in the Tasmanian dairy industry (People).The proposed integrated RD&E program is designed with 16 months of activities + a five year time horizon, at the request of the funder, Dairy Australia.
Funding
Dairy Australia Limited ($1,079,830)
Scheme
Grant-Research and Development
Administered By
University of Tasmania
Research Team
Rawnsley RP; Hills JL; Raedts PJM; Irvine LD; Turner LR; Langworthy A; Jones S; Flight S; Gee CM; Verdon MJ; Snare RD
Period
2019 - 2021
Enhancing the profitability and productivity of livestock farming through virtual herding technology (2017 - 2020)$3,780,000
Description
This project aims through the use of virtual fencing/herding technology to improve the productivity and profitability of livestock enterprises through optimising the management of individual grazing animals and better matching their requirements with feed availability.
Funding
Department of Agriculture ($2,600,000)
Collaborators
Australian Pork Limited ($20,000); Australian Wool Innovation Limited ($170,000); Dairy Australia Limited ($400,000); Meat and Livestock Australia ($200,000); University of Melbourne ($120,000); University of New England ($90,000); University of Sydney ($180,000)
Scheme
Grant-Rural R&D for Profit program
Administered By
Dairy Australia Limited
Research Team
Tomkins N; Swan P; D'Souza D; Henry D; Rawnsley RP; Hills JL; Freeman MJ; Verdon MJ; Langworthy A
Period
2017 - 2020
The feeding behaviour of sows and its relationship to sow welfare and reproduction. (2015)$18,821
Funding
Pork Co-operative Research Centre ($18,821)
Scheme
Industry innovation grant
Administered By
The Animal Welfare Science Centre, The University of Melbourne
Research Team
Verdon M; Morrison R; Hemsworth P
Year
2015
Welfare implications of group lactation at various ages (2015)$124,888
Funding
Pork Co-operative Research Centre ($124,888)
Scheme
Industry grant
Administered By
The Animal Welfare Science Centre, The University of Melbourne
Research Team
Rault J; Verdon M; Morrison R
Year
2015
Pre-weaning social exposure: effects on aggression and injuries of weaner pigs (2015)$22,000
Funding
Australian Government, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries ($22,000)
Scheme
Science and Innovation Award
Administered By
The Animal Welfare Science Centre, The University of Melbourne
Research Team
Verdon M
Year
2015
Social strategies of sows in groups: the relationships between the social strategy adopted and sow behaviour, stress physiology and reproduction. (2015 - 2017)$114,000
Funding
Australian Pork Limited ($114,000)
Scheme
Study Award
Administered By
The Animal Welfare Science Centre, The University of Melbourne
Research Team
Verdon M
Period
2015 - 2017
Welfare implications of group lactation at various ages (2015)$124,888
Funding
Pork Co-operative Research Centre ($124,888)
Scheme
Industry grant
Administered By
The Animal Welfare Science Centre, The University of Melbourne
Research Team
Rault J; Verdon M; Morrison R
Year
2015
Social strategies of sows in groups: the relationships between the social strategy adopted and sow behaviour, stress physiology and reproduction. (2015 - 2017)$114,000
Funding
Australian Pork Limited ($114,000)
Scheme
Study Award
Administered By
The Animal Welfare Science Centre, The University of Melbourne
Research Team
Verdon M
Period
2015 - 2017

Research Supervision

Current

2

Current

DegreeTitleCommenced
PhDEffect of Rearing Environment on Heifer Stress Resilience, Productivity and Welfare Around their 1st Calving2020
PhDIncreasing utilisation of non-replacement dairy calves in Australia2021