Evidence Synthesis Initiative for Animal and Veterinary Sciences (ESIAVS)

Your access to up-to date, relevant, high quality evidence to support decision-making in the animal industries and veterinary practice.

ESIAVS is an interdisciplinary team of University of Adelaide researchers skilled in animal and veterinary sciences, social sciences, regulation and governance, and evidence-based practice.

Our unique skill-set enables us to work with our industry stakeholders to explore and solve relevant questions and problems in animal science, with consideration for the wider socio-economic environment. This breadth can reliably inform policy development and research prioritisation strategy.

How can ESIAVS help you?

Our experts carry out evidence syntheses, based on published and unpublished material, to inform decision-making for industry or practice.

In these days of abundant and easily accessible information, it can be a challenge to assemble the evidence to make business decisions and identify gaps in knowledge for further research. This process can be both time-consuming and labour intensive and require access to specialised databases. 

Our work broadly spans four themes:

  • Animal husbandry and welfare
  • Food quality, sustainability and security
  • Reproduction and genetics
  • Veterinary clinical practice

We can perform a number of review types depending on the question or topic and project timeframe. We invite you to contact us to discuss how we can help you.

  • Evidence syntheses

    Our researchers use structured search and evidence synthesis methods to source and assimilate research in the animal and veterinary sciences, to support decision-making.

    The methodology used to synthesise existing research depends on the question and time available. However, the methods used are transparent, repeatable, and applied by experts in the field. 

    Critically, we can also assess strength of evidence and relevance to your particular scenario, be it geographical, or production system based. Types of reviews that can be performed include:

    Systematic scoping reviews

    These reviews use structured methodology and reproducible search strategies to provide an overview of the evidence on a topic. They are particularly suited to reviews of physiological or pathological mechanisms of disease, or broad topic areas. 

    Systematic review

    These reviews are tailored to a specific question, a ‘closed’ question, and will include critical appraisal of the available evidence. 
    Since there is a focused question, findings can be synthetised narratively. Numerical synthesis using statistical methods (meta-analysis) may be possible depending on the evidence available.

    These are particularly suited to research questions where comparison with an alternative method is possible, for example: Is a particular technique, such as surgical method, superior to an established method, is a new treatment more efficacious than the current standard, or to ascertain prevalence or incidence of a disease or condition. 

    Systematic mapping

    Systematic mapping follows the same rigorous, objective search methodology as systematic reviews but does not answer a specific question. Instead, the aim is to collate and discuss available evidence from a range of sources and study types. 

    Systematic mapping is useful for broad, cross-disciplinary questions often relevant to policy development.  

    Sources of evidence may derive from animal science, social science, environmental, regulatory and economic sources. This is useful for identifying knowledge gaps, determining evidence for policy-relevant questions, and topics for systematic review.

  • Case studies

    Impact of globalisation on industrial agricultural expansion and animal welfare, in low and middle income countries reliant on halal production practices

    Cattle Image: CIAT/NeilPalmer (CC BY-SA 2.0)

    Image: CIAT/NeilPalmer (CC BY-SA 2.0)

    Our researchers are conducting a preliminary literature review to answer the following questions in relation to expansion of animal-based agriculture in low and middle income countries (LMICs): 

    1. What impact does globalisation, and the adoption of international instruments and trade policies have on the development of industrial animal agriculture in LMICs where markets include a significant amount of meat arising from halal processes?
    2. How will the expansion of industrial animal agriculture in LMICs impact on the animal welfare aspects arising from halal practices, including those arising at time of slaughter?
    3. What effect will compliance with international instruments by LMICs and their world trade partners, have on animal welfare arising from the halal processes?


    Sheep grazing, Roseworthy

    Pain management in sheep

    Sheep are widely used as large animal models in biomedical research. However, current literature on the use of analgesics in sheep generally focuses on an industry or farm level of use. 

    This structured review titled 'The use and efficacy of analgesic agents in sheep (Ovis aries) utilised as models in biomedical research' evaluates use and efficacy of analgesics administered to sheep in a biomedical research setting from 1995 to 2018. It is published in the Journal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science.


    Pain management review


    Heat stress on sheep reproductive physiology and performance

    Sheep birth - Photo by Mat Brown from Pexels

    We conducted a narrative review to deliver a comprehensive and detailed review on the effects of heat stress on the reproductive physiology and performance of sheep. 

    Specifically, the effects of heat stress around mating on ewe and ram fertility were established, as were the effects of heat stress during gestation and lactation. Critical periods during the reproductive cycle when the impacts of heat stress on reproductive physiology, and thus reproductive efficiency, were most profound. 

    This information was used to quantify what constitutes a temperature / humidity event sufficient to impair reproductive physiology and performance. In addition, current knowledge of regional management practices as well as historical and projected climate data were used to establish where, and to what extent, reproductive output was most likely to be affected by current and projected periods of elevated temperature. 

    This information was then used to calculate the proportion of the national flock which was affected by heat stress, both currently - based on existing climate data - and projections of climate change across the major sheep rearing regions. 

    This information was then used to estimate the impacts of heat induced reproductive losses/failures under current and predicted climatic conditions on reproductive efficiency and output. 



    Impact of common recovery blood sampling methods

    Black mouse gloved hands Credit: Understanding Animal Research

    Image: Understanding Animal Research (CC by 4.0)

    Blood sampling is a commonly performed procedure in laboratory mice. Sampling techniques have the potential to cause pain, distress and impact on lifetime cumulative experience. 

    In spite of institutions commonly providing guidance to researchers on these methods, and the existence of published guidelines, no systematic evaluation of the evidence on this topic exists.

    In this systematic review titled ‘The impact of common recovery blood sampling methods, in mice (Mus musculus), on wellbeing and sample quality: A systematic review’ we evaluated the impact of published blood sampling routes on mouse wellbeing. 

    We assessed certainty of the evidence using the structured GRADE approach. Findings were assimilated using the SWiM reporting guidelines. 

    This review showcases the application and use of these evidence-based healthcare assessment tools in the animal sciences. It is hoped that this review will go on to inform evidence-based practice guidelines.


    Blood sampling review


    Mandatory desexing of dogs

    Vet spay neuter clinic

    Preventing dog bites is an intractable problem given the complex dog bite injury environment. Desexing of dogs has the opportunity of creating a safer injury environment, given the potential links between desexing and behaviour change in dogs.

    A systematic review of the literature was conducted to examine the evidence for desexing of dogs to reduce dog bite risk within a population health paradigm. Medline and CAB Abstracts were searched for studies that reported data on the association of dog neuter status with the risk of dog bite. All definitions of dog bite were included and all empirical studies were included in the review, limited to those published in English. Quality appraisal and data extraction were based on the 2013 evidence-based practice and critical appraisal tool from the University of Auckland.

    Five out of six observational studies, from four study populations found evidence that intact dogs were associated with an increased risk of dog bite compared with desexed dogs. The effect sizes ranged across the studies and given the heterogeneity of the studies no single effect size on the association between desexing and dog bite risk could be estimated.

    There is consistent evidence that desexing dogs is associated with a reduced risk of dog bite, although the studies reflect association and may not be causal. Although recent publications have suggested desexing is associated with health and behavioural costs in some breeds, population level evidence supports desexed dogs having a longer lifespan, and being less likely to wander with the added benefit of reducing unwanted litters.

    Thus, mandatory desexing presents a possible opportunity for prevention of dog bites expanding dog bite prevention beyond an education-only approach.

    • Professor Katina D'Onise - South Australian Department for Health and Ageing
    • Dr Susan Hazel - School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences
    • Dr Charles Caraguel - School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences

    Mandatory desexing of dogs review



Key contacts

Email: esiavs@adelaide.edu.au

Our team consists of experts from the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences and our University partners within the School of HumanitiesJoanna Briggs Institute and Centre for Global Food and Resources.

We have broad expertise across the animal industries and in discipline areas. With our inter-disciplinary connections, we can additionally provide expertise in public perception, economics, regulation and governance, and methodologies for evidence assimilation and reporting, associated with the animal and veterinary sciences. 

Our theme leaders act as a point of liaison and will connect you with the experts relevant to your research question.

Dr Alexandra Whittaker

Expert in veterinary science, animal welfare, ethics and law

Prof Rachel Ankeny

Expert in bioethics, philosophy of medicine and values in animal welfare

Dr Will van Wettere

Expert in reproductive physiology in pigs, cattle and sheep