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Based at Queen's University Belfast - FBS2021-72-Arnott: Nutritional programming in replacement dairy heifers: Future-proofing herd performance, health and behaviour


FoodBioSystems DTP

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Dr G Arnott No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
Reading United Kingdom Agricultural Sciences Bioinformatics Genetics Immunology Microbiology Veterinary Sciences Zoology

About the Project

Lead supervisor:

Dr Gareth Arnott, School of Biological Science, Queen’s University Belfast

Email: [Email Address Removed]

Co-supervisors:

Dr Sokratis Stergiadis, University of Reading

Dr Omar Cristobal Carballo, Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, Hillsborough

Dr Leonel Leal, Trouw Nutrition Ruminant Research Centre, The Netherlands

Project description:

The future dairy herd needs you!!

The lifetime performance of a dairy calf is impacted by its health, nutrition and environment, with a sub optimal position in any of these factors affecting the animal’s ability to achieve its genetic potential. The plane and composition of nutrients provided to calves in early life may be linked to changes in the calf metabolism and have the potential to persist throughout the animal’s lifetime, with implications for performance, longevity and welfare. Further, nutrition can impact the gut microbiome, disruptions to which can have a long lasting impact on immune system development and function. This is an important consideration in livestock production systems given the economic impact of disease and accompanying environmental implications. The microbiome has also been linked to behavioural development in adult dairy cattle, with improvements in milk quality and production found in calmer dairy cows. However, little is currently known about the impact of early life dairy calf nutrition on later life, and if certain nutritional regimes can be used to generate positive traits for production, health and welfare.

In this exciting PhD program the scholar will undertake a high impact research project at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) in collaboration with University of Reading (UoR), and will also benefit from the farm animal research facilities at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), Hillsborough and Trouw Nutrition Ruminant Research Centre, The Netherlands.

The scholar will assess the impact of pre- and post- wean nutritional regime in dairy calves on performance and behavioural traits at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute research farm in Hillsborough. Longitudinal stability of metabotype alongside the correlation between metabotype and animal phenotype (e.g. feed efficiency, milk production, behvaiour) will be examined as the calves grow and transition into the dairy herd. The impact of nutritional regime on metabotype and the gut microbiota will be evaluated using the state-of-the-art omics methods at the research facilities in QUB and UoR. The scholar will also benefit from a placement at the extensive research facilities of Trouw Nutrition, The Netherlands.

This research project will extend our understanding of the effects of early life nutrition and help to develop nutritional strategies in calves for metabolic programing of the future dairy herd. This will allow development of strategies for targeted selection of traits which will contribute to an environmentally sustainable, high welfare and productive dairy system. The scholar will benefit from a strong interdisciplinary supervisory team involving world leading academic institutes and industry leaders. The team will be led by Dr Gareth Arnott at QUB and will include Dr Sokratis Stergiadis (UoR), Dr Omar Cristobal Carballo (AFBI) and Dr Leonel Leal (Trouw Nutrition).

Training opportunities:

This project will provide the scholar with vast experience and cross-cutting training opportunities across various institutes. Extensive training in omics based lab techniques such as NMR-based metabolomics and data analysis will take place at QUB and UoR. At AFBI Hillsborough, the student will undertake fieldwork and be trained in animal procedures and gain a license for undertaking procedures. In addition, the scholar will undertake a placement at the Trouw Research facilities.

Student profile:

This project would be suitable for students with a degree in agricultural sciences, veterinary medicine, biology, ruminant nutrition or a closely related subject.

Funding particulars:

This project is a CASE partnership with AFBI and is part of the FoodBioSystems BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP), it will be funded subject to a competition to identify the strongest applicants.

Please note that the host universities have not yet confirmed the level of fees charged to international students funded by the DTP. Fee levels may vary across the institutions. This information will be shared on the FoodBioSystems DTP website as soon as it becomes available.

To apply

Please go to FoodBioSystems DTP website for information on how to apply for this studentship. The closing date for applications will be 8 February 2021.


Funding Notes

The studentship is open to UK and international students (including EU countries) however due to funding rules, no more than 30% of the projects can be allocated to international students.
The funding will include a tax free stipend (minimum £15, 285 per year), support for tuition fees at the standard UK rate (currently £4,407 per year) and a contribution towards research costs.
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